Apple iPad Price Cut: Blunder or Brilliance?

If Apple is really considering price cuts on its just-introduced iPad, the best advice is to make them before launch, not after.

Not today, or tomorrow, but a price drop a week--or even a day--before it goes on sale might give the iPad an incredible boost. I will also describe what other businesses can learn from Apple's troubles.

The iPad has been gradually settling back to early after a less than stellar Steve Jobs introduction on Jan. 27. The truth is that, for many, a supersized iPod touch just isn't too terribly interesting.

A well-timed price cut could light a fire under iPad sales. That such a cut would be a bit of a black-eye for Apple would be noticed by only a few.

Just the fact that Apple appears to already be talking to analysts about "nimble" pricing suggests consumer interest in the iPad is less than the company hoped. A post-introduction survey actually found that the more consumers knew about the iPad, the less they wanted one.

Conservative wisdom might be for Apple to save face by keeping prices where they are and dropping them sometime after iPad sales begin.

Of course, some of us still have copies of the $100 rebates Apple reluctantly sent after it cut the price of the original iPhone a mere two months after many of us stood in line to get one on launch day.

If Apple has to wait to take iPad pricing action until it won't upset early adopters, however, it could take nearly a year. Better to take the cuts early, when Apple will make fans, not enemies.

There are lessons for all businesses here.

Apple is not the first company to have a product launch go a tad sour. A $50-$100 price cut would send hard-core Apple fans over the edge with iPad excitement. It might also convince fence sitters to make their purchases closer to launch day.

That it might cause others to wait for the next price cut would be lost in the noise. Just like the idea that if things had gone well, the price cut would not have been necessary.

It seems clear that a sudden, unexpected, even last-second price cut could turn so-so first week sales into a blockbuster, generating momentum to carry the iPad forcefully into the marketplace.

After all, 16GB iPad for $449 (a $50 cut) is the sort of pricing to which even a jaded tech columnist might succumb.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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