Apple is making an iPad Mini which it will release on the 23rd of October to compete with other 7 inch tablets. Though Apple has neither announced date or specs of the forthcoming product, decks have been cleared for its launch.
It is confirmed. Apple despite Steve Jobs edict against 7 inch tablets, despite the huge research that suggested that 10 inch is the natural size for a tablet, despite the problems that a smaller screen may create in hitting the right icons, is actually making a 7 inch tablet.
The actual dimensions are 7.85 inch rather than 7 inch. With this product launch Apple is facing the unique challenge of coming late to the market which already has an excellent product in Google’s Nexus 7. It will be faced with the task of making a case for its tablet – and its unique size – so that people choose it over the Nexus 7. Another challenge for Apple would be to bring this product to market at a competitive price. It has been Apple’s policy to never sell products at a loss.
It is in the game for making profits, and succeeds extremely well at it. Now suddenly it is going to enter a market, where the two dominant players, Google and Amazon, are either selling their tablets at cost or, in Google’s case at a loss. To take a comparison, Apple’s recently unveiled iPod Touch sells for $300 dollars, which is a full $100 more than the price of both Nexus 7, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, and it is not even a full fledged phone, leave alone a tablet.
There is however an opportunity for Apple here. Neither the Nexus 7, nor the Kindle Fire HD comes equipped with LTE. While LTE would require users to buy a contract, it would also mean that carriers would be able to subsidize the tablet, which could then see it’s price fall to at least at par with the Nexus 7 and HD, and the LTE would be an added advantage. If however, Apple chooses to go the Wi-Fi only route, it would have a tough time competing with the Nexus on price.
Apple habitually makes a through case for why its product is the way it is. So that in the words on Jony Ive, it just feels natural. This time however, Apple would not have the luxury of doing that. Like in the case of iPhone 5, where it introduced a 4 inch screen, this time too it is clearly bowing to market pressure. Would Tim Cook come on the dias and say, we made it because consumers wanted it? That is just not Apple like.
There is another problem. In what way is Apple going to market the iPad Mini that makes space between the 10 inch iPad and 4 inch iPhone? Would the introduction of Mini not simply cannibalize Apple’s iPad sales? What it is after all that you could do on a 7.85 inch screen that can’t be done on a 9.7 screen? Reading? But Apple introduced the first iPad as a device geared towards reading. Would it now say that, heck, we were wrong, and for reading a 7ish tablet is the more natural fit for reading?
However one parses it, the introduction of iPad Mini is going to be a difficult business for Apple, and making a data supported case to consumers will be still more tricky. It is good then, that a recent survey found that users are already hungry for a smaller iPad, and might not need convincing. The market is there, and Apple would once again likely sell a ton of the devices.