The iPad Mini Success Depends on Apple-Controlled Issues
How well the iPad Mini--I've started calling it the iMini--does boils down to a few critical points, kids. And they all depend on Apple.
The tablet market is starting to become quite crowded, even though there's only a small number of key players: Apple, Google (and Samsung and every other Android tablet maker), and Microsoft (and other Windows 8 tablet makers). The issue of a successful iMini is going to hinge on a few key areas: Tablet size, Apple ecosystem fit, customized media and content, and price.
This story is one of several dueling commentaries on the upcoming iPad Mini. Also read:
Steve Jobs now-famously predicted 7-inch tablets will be DOA. The Kindle Fire and a couple other Android tablets have shown us that's not quite true. The Fire has done well, and Amazon is hoping that the Kindle Fire HD will do much better.
The key point here is that many people believe a 7-inch tablet is easier to carry, with a screen big enough to get by on. Seven inches is decent for eBooks and light Office Suite use, but might be dissatisfying for watching videos.
The real question is where the iMini fits within Apple's hardware ecosystem. Its stuck somewhere between the iPhone-sized iPod Touch and the iPad, and Apple hasn't identified any specific uses, needs, or users that might find this device valuable. Is it meant for soccer moms, students, or anyone looking for a bigger iDevice but not a full size iPad? Current rumors indicate that it won't have a retina display. If it doesn't, the iMini is going to have a very hard time gaining any real traction.
Custom media and content
Final display specs on the iMini are still up in the air. Without a retina display, I think the device is going to have issues with the iTunes Store if it can't support 720p video at a minimum. If the screen has an odd resolution, requiring developers to build in special screen support of separate apps, I see this as being problematic, and predict that developers will shy away from it.
Current reports indicate that the iMini will sell for between $249 and $299 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi unit. With the iPad 2 at $399, the pricing window is very narrow. Apple likes its margins and placing things at a premium price point. Pricing a 16 GB iMini at $249 would be a better move than $299, but I'd count on the higher price.
Steve Jobs might have been right on this one. Although a 7" iPad might sound very appealing, I think it's going to have a hard time gaining traction. All it has to offer, really, is its size, and I don't know if that's enough to give it the legs it needs to be a success. Apple has control of all the variables here. However, I just don't see its distinguishing the iMini enough to make it a success at this late date. Two years ago it probably would have been a huge success. Now? Not so much.
Based in Chicago, Chris is a senior IT consultant. He serves BYTE as a Contributing Editor. Follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisspera and email him at chris@BYTE.com.