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Apple has lost the plot on simplicity

Phil Schiller iPads
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
A sea of iPads.
By Dan Frommer
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he famously pared down the company’s sprawling product line. Since then, Apple has done a pretty good job keeping things simple. It’s rare for two Apple products to overlap much, whether in utility or price.

But take a look at Apple’s current iPad lineup, which it unveiled today. What a change! It now offers five different iPad models, in two or three colors each, with two to six different configurations of networking features and storage space. Not to mention their subtle differences in processor, camera, and sensors. The “full comparison chart” is dizzying.

Too many options?

Perhaps Apple gets some mileage out of offering so many choices at different prices—the lineup ranges from $249 for a two-year-old iPad mini to $829 for today’s top-of-line iPad Air 2. Perhaps this is Tim Cook’s Apple saying “We’ve got this!” when it comes to the supply chain, inventory planning, and marketing.

But it seems more complex than it needs to be.

Of course, you can expect an even more elaborate array of options when Apple starts selling its Watch next year—two sizes, three levels of luxury, and endless bands. But personalized customization makes sense for a piece of jewelry. For a tablet, perhaps less so.

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