22: Drawing lines

Apple had a big day on Monday. They pushed updates to all four of their operating systems and launched two major new products, the 4" iPhone SE and the 9.7" iPad Pro.

At first glance, both the SE and the "baby" Pro look like they're oriented towards the past — they both occupy the form factors of previous devices, the iPhone 5s and iPad Air 2, respectively. But looks aren't everything. The interiors of these new devices are what make them a confident, clarifying strategy for Apple's product lines in the future.

Leading up to previous iPhone and iPad announcements, the cynical question to ask has been "So what products will Apple keep selling today?" Two-, two-and-a-half, three-year-old devices sticking around to push retail prices down and margins up. Hardware that didn't hold up to contemporary software, and should have been labeled "BARGAIN BIN" to make even cost-conscious consumers wary.

Monday's announcements look like the end of the straggler strategy for iOS devices. There are now three categories of iPhone: small, medium, and large, all with comparable features. Any iPhone with "5" in the name is now gone from Apple's website. The 6, as opposed to 6s models, are still available — last year's model, on discount. It's hard to imagine that they will still be here when the iPhone 7 (in how many sizes?) arrives this fall.

The iPad line is similarly simplified: small, medium, and large, although with the option to go Pro or Air at the medium size. The only confusion is the persistence of both the Mini 2 and Mini 4. Phil Schiller presented it as somewhat simpler in his slides, by showing the Mini 2 to get that low "starting at" price. That has to change soon, as an A7 device makes little sense in 2016. But if the new Pro moves up average selling price for mid-size iPads, pushing the Mini 4 down to a sub-$300 price point will be an easy choice to make.

All of these product line realignments are "customer sat" moves: get people to pay what they want (or can) for iOS devices. It's incredibly promising that the new strategy for achieving this appears to be creating new, off-cycle products. As the sales numbers showed, it was mostly new customers who were getting Apple's oldest, worst products. Every release that Apple does now, both hardware and software, is moving quicker and becoming more fluid than ever before. If it's putting Apple's latest and greatest — or at least close to it — into more hands, it's a win for everyone involved.