These days it's well known that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad sales continue to plummet. While some, like fellow Fool Evan Niu, are optimistic that the long-term story for the iPad is still intact despite short-term challenges, others might subscribe to the notion that the iPad just isn't going to be a good business for the company long term.
Part of the problem that I can see for Apple's iPad business is that its products are premium priced in a market that seems to be a proverbial "race to the bottom." However, it seems that competitive pressures at the high end might further compound Apple's iPad problems.
Say hello to the Galaxy Tab S2
Leaks have recently hit the Web detailing the specifications of Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) next generation Galaxy Tab S2 family. The tablets will reportedly come in two sizes; 8-inch and 9.7-inch. These will also reportedly feature 4:3 aspect ratios (similar to Apple's iPad) and weigh just 260 grams and 407 grams, respectively.
They'll also be super thin, with both models coming in at just 5.4 millimeters thick. Apple's iPad Air 2 launched in October 2014 was 6.1 millimeters thick. The iPad mini 3 is relatively chunky at 7.9 millimeters thick.
Finally, the tablets are expected to feature either Samsung's Exynos 5433 system-on-chip or its Exynos 7420, although the reports suggest that this specification isn't yet set in stone. The A8X inside of the iPad Air 2 should be competitive with the 5433, but against the 7420 it may have a harder time. The A7 inside of the iPad mini 3, though, is pretty dated compared to even the 5433.
The Samsung tablets will give the iPad Air 2 a run for their money and embarrass the iPad mini 3
Although these new Galaxy Tabs won't run iOS (which is, arguably, one of Apple's big points of differentiation), it looks as though from a hardware perspective, the 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2 could give the iPad Air 2 a serious run for its money. Additionally, once again from a hardware perspective, the 8.0-inch Samsung model looks decidedly superior to the 7.9-inch iPad mini 3.
The rumors don't point to a release date for these new tablets, but I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung rolled these out in the May/June time frame, or about a year after the prior generation Tab S products were launched. While that would give Apple's current lineup three or four more months in the spotlight, things could get uglier for the current iPad lineup once these new Samsung tablets hit the market.
Apple may want to pre-empt this launch with updated tablets
In today's environment, the iPad is struggling. I would argue that once Samsung launches its next generation premium tablets, Apple's iPad sales could decline at an accelerated pace relative to what investors have seen in the last few quarters.
So, if Apple can, it might be in its best interests to launch updated tablets before its traditional October iPad launch time frame. Whether this is feasible from either product or supply chain readiness perspectives, I'm not sure, but Apple's tablet product lineup -- particularly the "mini" model -- really should, in my view, be refreshed as soon as feasible to counter these increasing competitive pressures.