If a tree falls in the forest, will we still speculate that Apple is going to come out with a mini version of the iPad? Sure we will and you can bet Apple is watching and reading while we do it. If you had asked me 2 years ago when the iPad first launched if Apple would consider an additional form-factor for the iPad I would have sworn up and down that it will never happen.
But I’m eating those words now because I think it might just make some sense.
Rumors have circled the Internet a time or two (or three, or…) but given that we can’t know for certain those things that we don’t know for certain, the question becomes one of why Apple would want to produce a mini version of the iPad.
I’d bet that it has nothing to do with the competition. Apple long-ago established that they believe people who want Apple products will go out and buy Apple products. They have never worried about being competitive. They never rush to market with a product ‘in response’ to something another company has released. An iPad Mini would have nothing to do with the success (or failure had it flopped) of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Likewise, Apple has never tried to put a competitive product in every price bracket. While they may have entry level devices all the way up to bigger, faster, shinier high-end versions they never correspond to other retail options.
An iPad Mini would be Apple’s way of scratching an itch, filling a hole in their existing product offering that supports their goals and their ideals. Consider these possibilities:
- iTextbooks – Apple has shown a commitment to education with initiatives like their iTextbooks. The idea of replacing traditional paper volumes with a single iPad containing all of the requisite research and reference materials a student could ever need might make the case for a smaller 7″ version of the iPad. Certainly many people are used to reading on screens of this size thanks to the successful eReaders out there and a smaller device is definitely more portable –not to mention the potential for longer battery life with a smaller screen to power. Cost savings may factor into this as well if you think about tablets becoming a standard school supply item, making a smaller iPad entirely more affordable for many. Oh, and if the students using them happen to be in elementary school it might be infinitely easier for them to hold and handle a smaller device.
- Evolution of the MacBook Air – The popularity of the MacBook Air is growing and many expect that the ultra-portable laptop will likely evolve to run iOS instead of MacOS. If this proves true then I think we can expect the MacBook Air to sprout a touch-screen, making it very much… like the current iPad. One thought I’ve had on more than a few occasions is that the existing iPad will meet the current MacBook Air in the middle somewhere with a more intense high-end tablet design and an iPad Mini would fill in the resulting market-hole quite nicely.
- Portability – This one is tough. Is a 7″ tablet really that much more convenient to carry around than a 10″ tablet? Of course it is. Don’t mistake this for me saying I think the iPad is too large, too heavy, too whatever. This is me saying that some people may want something a little smaller and lighter, especially as it becomes a more constant companion.
- Family-Style – It may sound silly but there is an interesting phenomenon that lacks the proper phrasing to describe it: parents want their children to have iPads because they are excellent educational tools, but they find it hard to justify and afford buying one for everybody. In this manner, it seems to be the norm that children are starting to receive iPads when their parents start to upgrade theirs. With an iPad Mini, Apple could open up the market nicely at a ‘child-friendly’ price-point (note that I didn’t say competitive) that parents (and their budgets) could more easily bear.
With all of these things said I think that it is critical to keep a few things in mind. If Apple did release an iPad Mini it would likely keep the same aspect ratio as the current 10″ model in order to make apps scale more seamlessly. I also believe that they would keep much the same specifications with regards to cameras and operating system and such to minimize the additional support load for those areas of their organization.
Steve Jobs was against a smaller form factor, but Steve isn’t in charge anymore. But even beyond that, this isn’t something new for Apple. You don’t need to look any further than their iPod line-up to see that Apple is no stranger to diversifying an already-successful product. (and before you ask, yes I would buy an iPad Mini even though I already have an iPad 3… and yes I do currently own a variety of iPods, many of which I still use for targeted purposes)
Remember of course that only time will tell, a watched pot never boils and good things come to those who wait.