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4/6/2012
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iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It

Apple has good reasons to think smaller with its next iPad, as a Google Android tablet waits in the wings.

10 Things Tablets Still Can't Do
10 Things Tablets Still Can't Do
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Later this year, Google and its Android partners are expected to try yet again to produce a tablet that surpasses Apple's iPad.

Digitimes reported last month that Google and Asus will introduce a 7-inch co-branded tablet that will be priced in the $199 to $249 range. Though the Taiwan-based publication says the device--let's call it the Google Tab (Goosus Tab just doesn't work)--could be ready as soon as May, subsequent reports indicate a June release is more likely.

Google's annual developer conference starts on June 27. And during previous developer conferences, Google has given attendees Android phones and tablets. History appears to be poised to repeat itself.

The odds that Google and friends will succeed are slim, but at least someone is trying. Apple's dominance in the mobile device market is such that you almost have to root for the underdog, if only to keep Apple from resting on its laurels.

[ Read Google CEO Larry Page Touts First-Year Accomplishments. ]

As Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber noted in November, there's no contest yet. Taking issue with the way research firm NPD framed its tablet sales statistics, he suggested that another way to interpret the numbers "is that 92% of U.S. tablet buyers considered an iPad, and 89% bought an iPad, which means 97% of tablet buyers who merely considered an iPad bought an iPad, and if not for the 8% of tablet buyers who for whatever reason did not consider an iPad, none of these companies [HP, Samsung, ASUS, Motorola, Acer] would have sold even 100,000 tablets over the first nine months of 2011."

As it turns out, there is a way to beat Apple: Compete in a market where Apple isn't present. The most successful tablet not named iPad appears to be Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire, which sold about 4.7 million units in Q4 2011, according to IDC.

But it's doubtful that Apple will remain absent from this market for long. Gruber in a recent podcast said he'd heard from several sources that Apple has been testing a 7.85" iPad internally. Digitimes said as much last December.

A smaller iPad is coming and it will be huge. Here are six reasons why we'll see an iPad Mini, or whatever Apple finally decides to call it.

The 9.7-inch iPad Is Too Heavy
At 1.44 pounds, or 652 grams, the new iPad (Wi-Fi version) weighs a bit too much for prolonged reading. Matching the weight of a slender magazine--about 3.3 ounces--is probably too much to ask. But something in the 14 ounce range would make the iPad Mini better suited for reading e-books.

A 7.85-inch iPad Fits In More Bags
For men, fitting an iPad into one's bag--a backpack, messenger bag, or briefcase--generally isn't a problem. Many women also carry bags large enough to accommodate an iPad, though quite a few favor handbags that are smaller. A scaled-down iPad would fit more comfortably into a larger selection of bags, making it a more appealing form factor for use outside the home.

A 7.85-inch iPad Would Cost Less
The new iPad starts at $499. That's about $400 from the ideal consumer price point for truly mass-market consumer electronics. With the iPad 2 priced at $399, the iPad Mini might be offered for as little as $299--it would have to be under $300 to woo customers away from Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire.

It remains to be seen whether Apple wants to go that low in its pricing. The iPhone 4S is estimated to cost $188 to manufacture. The iPad Mini would presumably cost more, giving Apple a relatively low profit margin--and Apple doesn't like selling goods with low profit margins. But perhaps it can make the math work given its economies of scale.

Kids Could Handle A 7-inch iPad Better
Kids love the iPad. They love the touchscreen. But the iPad is a bit large and a bit heavy for smaller tykes. The iPad Mini would be just right.

A 7.85-inch iPad Fits Many Work Scenarios Better
Sometimes, a 9.7-inch iPad is well-suited for business use. It's perfect for placing self-service orders at sandwich shops, a use-case that's becoming surprisingly common in San Francisco. But it's a bit bulky for those waiting tables or engaged in other business activities where data entry doesn't have to be made consumer-friendly with a big screen and stupid-proof UI.

Apple Can't Afford To Ignore A Proven Market
The late Steve Jobs dismissed 7-inch tablets as unworkable for adult fingers. "Apple's done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff," he said during an investor conference call in October, 2010. "There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps."

However, Jobs was not infallible. The market has spoken and sub-10-inch tablets are selling. Kindle Fires and Nook tablets are in demand. Samsung last month said it had sold some 5 million of its 5.3-inch Galaxy Note devices--dubbed "phablets" by some for being neither phones nor tablet.

The iPad Mini must be. The question is only when.

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ANON1237925156805
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ANON1237925156805,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2012 | 9:02:59 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
This is the nuts and bolts of it and it's why statements to the effect that Apple will definitely release a smaller iPad are at best premature. It wouldn't surprise me if they are testing; I hope to heck they are. They need to tackle these technical issues one by one to be ready to bring other form factors to market. We won't see anything though unless it looks and worlks like an Apple device and the profit margins are acceptable at a price point that the markeplace will accept..
MobileITguy
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MobileITguy,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2012 | 8:35:08 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
There is a good 7 inch tablet out there called a Blackberry PlayBook. One of the main complaints was the screen size.
underwater
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underwater,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2012 | 6:25:29 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
We have 2 iPads and 2 Kindle Fires in the household. The Fire has become the favorite due to size, the slightly easier kindle book buying experience, fits in cargo shorts pocket, and the comfort of the rubber back. As a "mobile strategy" guy, I was surprised, but 7" seems to be the sweet spot for reading, games and most other tablet apps.
Fill
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Fill,
User Rank: Strategist
4/9/2012 | 3:21:04 AM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
Interesting, I think I noted (pun intended) that the Note was laughed at a bit here in the US in the Super Bowl commercial for bringing back the old-shkool stylus, but perhaps it makes more sense in Asia with the more complex keyboard?
ANON1244594108572
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ANON1244594108572,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/8/2012 | 11:15:58 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
-------------------------------------
Isn't the iPad just a larger version of the iPod Touch?
Isn't the iPod Touch just a smaller version of the iPad?

Yes, and yes.
----------------------------------

uh, no, and no... an iPad is not a larger iPod touch, and we don't need anything that is a too big iPod touch, and a too small iPad... an iPod touch will work in the same size with a 4.5" screen and someday it will have it...with the pixels matching double the old screen, so that apps actually work...

what would Apple do without information week "ideas" thank god they came along...... the reason Apple didn't do a 7" iPad in the first place, was because it ISN't an ideal book reader, and IT DOESN't fit in your pocket.... among about about 100 other things wrong with it...

and comparing the screen sizes of a laptop to an iPad only shows that you don't know what the software developers do with an App on an iPad, and an Application on a laptop... the software developers have to make their apps conform to certain defined content situations... they give up "freedom" so that their app works on 100's of millions of devices....

a great example is the Android market, where only a few apps work properly on any given one of the 300 different devices... so that no one is pleased, but hey, they get to brag about being "open" and "free"... where the customer could care less about the cute titles one gives oneself... they want it to just work, they don't understand why the HTC 9" tablet app doesn't work on their 7" samsung tablet, much less their 5", and 4" and 3" and 2" smartphones from 8 other manufactures....

get it? any bells and whistles going off there???? the reason Apple sells so many iPod touches, is because it just works, and someone actually told the customers it was a "closed" system... but they don't give a rat's patuee if they suddenly saw apps that only work on 7" iPod touches, well, their interest would soon fade after about the 10'th time an app crashed or didn't work on yet another download....

there is a reason the iPhone sells more than any other manufacture's phone, let alone close to dozens and dozens and dozens combined... because customers can download an app, and it actually works on their device... Android... not so much... that is why the customer satisfaction for Android is so low, and so high for Apple... but hey someone's got to buy the androids, hey, they will come out with 30 new devices next month, like the month before and the month before... none of which have the same specs, let along any hopes of having more than a handful of apps work on them correctly.... due to screen size and several other factors...
rpasea
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rpasea,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/8/2012 | 10:13:31 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
The Samsung Note seems to fit the small screen market nicely. I see them everywhere in Hong Kong as the stylus suits Chinese characters nicely. The iP4 still dominates though.
rpasea
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rpasea,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/8/2012 | 10:11:55 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
why would you go from an iPad2 to a Xoom??? A major tech step backwards.
Fill
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Fill,
User Rank: Strategist
4/8/2012 | 9:58:10 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
Could be interesting, although I remember during the keynote for the iPad that Jobs said explicitly that anything smaller than 10 inches wouldn't be a good tablet, nor a good iPhone/iPod Touch. I suppose there is a market for a smaller iPad, but is it large enough or profitable enough? I honestly don't know.
PKINETIC000
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PKINETIC000,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/8/2012 | 4:10:30 PM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
used an ipad2 for a month....now have a Xoom...only because it was on sale for $299....and the apps are crashing so,so often...it sucks....android apps seem lower quality....over all....
...I end up reading stuff on my iphone 3gs instead of Xoom tablet....and am considering returning it...even at $299...
A smaller android tab would still deliver the same inadequacies....
manning18
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manning18,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/8/2012 | 2:14:25 AM
re: iPad Mini: 6 Reasons Apple Must Do It
Apple sold three million third generation ipads in the first weekend of sales. Nuff said.
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