This fall, Apple (AAPL 0.70%) didn't release a single new iPad, something that seems a little strange in light of the declines the company has seen in this product segment for quite a long time.
After all, the way to get customers interested in buying new products is to, well, release new products. So why didn't Apple release new iPad products in the fall to give this business another much-needed push?
At least one component wouldn't be ready until the spring
One of the key ingredients to Apple's next-generation high-end iPad lineup is almost certainly going to be the new A10X chip. This processor is likely to deliver some very seriously insane levels of performance, which should allow both Apple and iPad application developers to bring interesting, performance-sensitive applications to the platform.
However, the A10X is expected to be built using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSM 2.13%) new 10-nanometer manufacturing technology. TSMC is expected to begin shipping 10-nanometer silicon wafers for revenue during the first quarter of 2017 -- meaning that even if the rest of the technologies planned for the next iPad would be ready in time to support a late 2016 launch, the main processor for the device won't be.
Maybe other components wouldn't be ready, either
Although the leaks around Apple's upcoming iPad models haven't been voluminous, enough information has made it into the public domain to let us know that they will push the envelope on several key fronts.
For one thing, Bloomberg reported back in August that the new iPads will have a "faster display technology that allows for soother zooming, panning, and scrolling." I believe this to mean that Apple will be using display panels that support faster refresh rates.
High-refresh-rate panels have been done, and they can be found in high-end desktop and laptop monitors, often targeted at the gaming community. What hasn't been done commercially, at least to my knowledge, are high-refresh rate panels that are power-efficient enough for thin and light battery-powered tablets and can meet Apple's stringent quality expectations, all while coming in at a reasonable cost.
Perhaps this technology, too, won't be ready for mass production until late this year.
Springtime launches make sense for the iPad
Beyond component readiness, it's worth pointing out that Apple now seems to be on a permanent fall release cycle for its all-important iPhones. If Apple stuck to a fall release schedule for its iPad products, then the new iPad models could conceivably compete for wallet-share that would otherwise have gone toward new iPhones.
By releasing new iPad models in the spring (like Apple did this year with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro), when the company's latest iPhone models have been in the market for around six months, the company is less likely to see cannibalization of iPhone sales by iPad sales. Instead, users who picked up a new iPhone in the fall might be ready to open their wallets again in the spring, especially if the added development time allows for Apple to bring compelling new features to the new iPad models that it couldn't quite get into the new iPhone models in time.