The Elusive iPad ‘mini’

I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait for the iPad nano, with it’s 3.5″ retina screen.

While we wait for those rumors, let’s take a look at what is going around this time.

We’ll just blame this flare up on MacRumors, Bloomberg, and the Wall Street Journal all together. Since the reports are all similar we can break it down as such:

  • 7-8 inch screened iPad.
  • 1024 x 768 Resolution.
  • Before the end of 2012.
  • Sources “close to the matter”.

This is nothing new, since “sources close to the matter” have been reporting an iPad mini, and Apple Television for well over a year now. The discussions are largely the same “yay” or “nay” depending on how you view the future of a smaller tablet, but I have a few thoughts about such a device.

There’s been a strong argument made by Joel Bernstein on why a 7.8″ screen would mesh well with the rumored resolution. His strongest point, I believe, is this one:

The iOS Human Interface Guidelines say “The screen size of iOS-based devices might vary, but the average size of a fingertip does not. Regardless of the device your app runs on, following these guidelines ensures that people can comfortably use your app. Give tappable elements in your application a target area of about 44 x 44 points.”

So let’s just make it a given that Apple could/can/would produce a ~7″ tablet with little to no harm to the current crop of iPad apps. With that, then the question becomes: should they make one?

In the “for” camp this argument from Rene Ritchie strikes me as the strongest:

The reasons Apple was planning this, we heard, was the same reason they planned and executed on the lower price point iPod mini and iPod nano — to take the oxygen out of the market. In this case, to leave no room for discount competitors like Amazon and Google.

The reason this bit is so compelling to me is a two part answer. First, it is generally believed that Steve Jobs had a large hand in the product road map for at least the next 5 years at Apple. Part two, is this quote (curiously the only source I could find for it is Daring Fireball) from Steve Jobs:

Once a company devises a great product, he says, it has a monopoly in that realm, and concentrates less on innovation than protecting its turf. “The Mac user interface was a 10-year monopoly,” says Jobs. “Who ended up running the company? Sales guys. At the critical juncture in the late ’80s, when they should have gone for market share, they went for profits. They made obscene profits for several years. And their products became mediocre. And then their monopoly ended with Windows 95. They behaved like a monopoly, and it came back to bite them, which always happens.”

I think it is pretty certain that Apple knows they have a hit with the iPad. So now do they rest on their laurels or go for market share?

For that we look at the iPhone — and yep, just checked, Apple still sells the 3GS. Why? Because they are going for market share.

With the iPad it isn’t so simple because there are no carrier subsidies to drastically cut the price, but they have already started going for market share by keeping the iPad 2 around. With a smaller, cheaper, iPad they could aggressively pursue market share.

That’s why I like the 7 inch iPad rumors right now, but there’s a problem with these rumors.

The problem is: I don’t know where the hell a 7 inch iPad would fit for Apple users. The iPhone, iPad, and Mac all complement each other, but I have a hard time seeing where the 7 inch iPad would fit in.

To me the 7 inch iPad would be a bit like the iPod touch, not likely something you would buy if you already have an iPhone. Again though the iPod touch does sell well, so perhaps I am just not the target market for the 7 inch iPad?

So let’s just assume I am not the target market for such a device, that there actually is a group of buyers that is the target market, and that a smaller iPad would be cheaper — given all that I still have one question: how does Apple market it?

Apple doesn’t like to market things as being cheap. You don’t see commercials for the iPad 2 floating around, because the only reason Apple keeps it around is because it is cheaper. You don’t see Apple engaging in marketing price wars.

Right now Apple sells and markets devices by showing users why they need/want such a device. The amazing screen on the retina MacBook Pro. The amazing form factor of the MacBook Air. The intimate web and portability of the iPad. The amazing do everything, go everywhere iPhone. 10,000 songs in your pocket iPod.

How does Apple market a seven inch iPad if they are only making it because it would be cheaper to buy? What is demonstrably better about a 7 inch tablet?

Those are two questions I would expect Apple to have a firm answer to before they launch a tablet.

I like carrying a seven inch tablet around because it is small and easy to hold, but I hate using them because they are too small to actually use.

This should be a very interesting move if Apple makes it.

Originally posted for members on: July 5, 2012
Follow along on RSS, App.net, or Twitter.
~I would appreciate it if you considered becoming a member.~