Today, all business and social media eyes were focused on Apple and its annual Special Event timed to announce the latest iteration of product innovation, just in-time for the upcoming holiday buying period. Supply Chain Matters provides our initial impressions of new Apple products from a supply chain and product lifecycle management lens.

A New Model iPad

From our lens, the most significant news was the new iPad Pro model, which Apple executives boasted as the: “Biggest news in iPad since the iPad.” And rightfully so, since overall sales of the tablet device have been steadily declining for the past several quarters. Apple needs a boost for this product line, especially in growing the user base to greater numbers of business users.

The new iPad Pro features a 12.9 inch Retina display, the biggest ever built for an IoS driven device. Other announced features included an upgraded A9X, third generation processor, virtual full-sized smart keyboard, three additional input ports, an optional pencil stylus and other performance features. Announced pricing was $799 for the baseline 32GB model, upwards to $1079 for the 128GB Wi-Fi and Cellular enabled version. Add in the optional pencil stylus and smart keyboard and the price exceeds $1100.

Apple executives further declared that this new model iPad is: “Faster than 90 percent of PC’s shipped in the last 12 months.” That statement alone points to the primary strategic thrust of this newer model, increased attraction for business users and mobile-based business applications. Representatives from Microsoft, Adobe and 3D for Medical were invited to demo various office and industry apps than will run on the new iPad. From our lens, glaringly missing from the stage was IBM, which announced a groundbreaking partnership with Apple for mobile-based enterprise business applications nearly one year ago.

Availability for the new iPad Pro was announced as November which is an indicator that the supply chain is still laboring to scale-up supply and production volume to support expected customer demand needs.

Next Iteration of iPhone

The company announced its new iPhone 6 line-up, which includes a new 7000 series aluminum, the same alloy used in the aerospace industry, a new 3D Touch system and an upgraded camera. Tim Cook declared the launch of: “the most advanced smartphone in the world” but the reality of this year’s product upgrade is one predominantly software related. There are a couple of noteworthy hardware changes: a new custom aluminum case described as “aerospace like material” an upgraded 12MP camera and a more durable glass screen. However, the new screen in not described as sapphire glass.

Availability of the iPhone 6 was announced as September 25th, with pre-orders being accepted beginning on September 12. As was the case with last year’s iPhone launch, initial availability will span an initial twelve counties including China. This year, Apple’s supply chain ecosystem got an early start on ramp-up production and with little hardware changes, the volume machine should be in full cycle.

In a new twist, Apple is offering consumer financing programs to help customers pay for their phones in monthly payments since many U.S. carriers are no longer subsidizing the purchase of iPhones.

Finally there was very little supply chain and customer fulfillment related news related to the new Apple Watch, other than the availability of a new Hermes Collection line-up.

Every year at this point, we have featured our Apple product announcement commentary, and have noted that Apple’s supply chain will once again be put to the ultimate test. However, this year seems different, with more muted expectations.

As always, we will all discover the results and the implications in Q1 of 2016 and beyond.

Bob Ferrari