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iPad Mini: Apple Could Have Done More

It's Just A Smaller iPad. Yes, the components in Apple's devices keep getting better and faster, but they haven't really done anything bold and innovative lately. Eventually someone else will win over customers by thinking different.

Barely minutes after Apple unveiled the iPad Mini, the first tomatoes started flying. Pundits said the iPad Mini is too expensive, it's too small, the screen resolution is pitiful.

None of this will matter. Apple will sell ten gazillion of these things, despite all the naysaying. And in the long run it will be all the more reason for Apple to end up hiding itself inside its walled garden.

Read what other BYTE contributors have to say about the iPad Mini:

I've said before that the short-term success of me-again devices like the iPhone 5 and the new iPads are great for the company and its fans, as long as you don't think too deeply about how it represents a regression for the Cupertino Crusaders. These devices are all entry points into a carefully-manicured walled garden of content, the experience of which has long been Apple's main selling point.

As Android cleans up its act and becomes not just competent, but downright snazzy, and as people become more device agnostic in general, the Apple approach seems increasingly backward. Not because it's still doing it at all--why give up a good thing?--but because it's not also doing anything remotely adventurous in parallel with it. From Apple's point of view, that's fine. It has its market share, gobs of cash, a giant stock value--why torpedo all that when you can just Give The People What They Want?

And by all accounts, people did in fact want a smaller iPad. I know I did. As soon as the announcement broke, I decided a $329 iOS device was well within the realm what I could afford, and so I budgeted accordingly. But what happens when all the useful iterations and form factors of these devices are used up?

What's kept Apple alive despite all the brickbats flung at it, mine included, is how it is not seen as a tech company by its customers. It's a lifestyle company that sells technology, something its competitors either ape incorrectly (Sony) or just plain get wrong (Samsung). That's Apple's line and it plans to stick with it to the bitter end, it seems.

It can't last forever, and for Apple to bank on it unthinkingly without attempting to take at least one bold risk a year is dismaying. Don't tell me a company sitting on that much liquid cash can't afford to lose some of it trying to do something different. Volkswagen realized by the mid-1970s that it couldn't build its business on the back of the Beetle anymore, and so it branched out. Not everything it made was a success, but breaking away from the single iconic thing it was known for helped revitalize the company. Likewise, Apple's big gamble with becoming a lifestyle company paid off, but now it has to follow it up with something other than a new connector on the bottom.

What's worse--and most crucial--is that Apple's own customers won't help it do it. They will gladly buy, in whatever numbers, Apple produces--until a competitor comes along and offers something unheralded. And then those same people will gladly buy the competition, and leave Apple to (sorry, I have to say it) its own devices.

I admire Apple for initially taking a maverick road. But it is doing itself--and its customers--a long-term disservice if it doesn't think about what else to offer other than a smaller or larger version of the same things.

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