The tablet market is changing and it looks like Apple may be changing along with it. Despite the fact that Apple generally considers itself a trendsetter instead of a follower, rumours are circulating that the company may be looking to respond to the influx of smaller tablet devices, notably the Amazon Kindle Fire, by producing its own pared down tablet, an “iPad Mini” of sorts.
But hold the phone; has the legacy of Steve Jobs dissipated already? It was only a few short months ago that the late company head dismissed rumours of the a smaller iPad outright, stating consumer disinterest and problematic user interface as the reasons his company would not be pursuing said development.
Now with rumours swirling, could a smaller version of the iPad be Tim Cook’s first real impact on the company he took over this past summer, or was Jobs’ original dismissal simply one of his trademark cloak and dagger marketing methods, designed to throw us off the track?
As with many Apple rumours, the source of all the speculation surrounding a mythical 7-inch iPad began in the company’s Asian supply line, with industry insiders oversees sparking the fire that Apple would finally create a smaller version of the iPad. Should Apple actually be pursuing a mini-me version of its wildly popular iPad, it would be a sharp departure from the company’s usual product modus operandi.
If there’s one thing that Apple is hesitant to ever change in its more successful products, it’s the form factor. Once Apple settles on the general design of a device, be it the iPod, iPad, or iPhone, it generally doesn’t stray to far away from its original plan. Sure we see advanced iterations of each device become lighter or thinner, but generally never smaller, as through its tireless research Apple has discovered what device size consumers actually want, and with its sales record, who are we to argue?
Further, it was barely a year ago that the late Steve Jobs dismissed the rumours of a 7-inch iPad outright, stating that “Apple has done extensive user testing and we really understand this stuff…There are clear limits on how close you can place things on a touch screen, which is why we think 10 inch is the minimum screen size to create great tablet apps.”
He went on to say that the company would have to include sandpaper with every new tablet purchase, so consumers could pare down their fingers to the size needed to be able to effectively use a 7-inch touchscreen. Of course it wouldn’t have been the first time Jobs railed against something his company was working on in secret, but again, the company’s track record certainly lends credence to the authenticity of Jobs’ rant.
So what should we make of all of this? For starters, the rumours of a smaller iPad are nothing new, and have been around as long as rival companies have been producing tablets under 10-inches. The pressure to produce a smaller tablet didn’t phase Apple in the past, and until we see the long term interest in smaller devices like Amazon’s Kindle Fire, there’s no reason to think Apple will bow to the pressure now.
That said, what Apple might need to be worried about is the growing trend in tablet pricing. Recently we’ve seen the overwhelming demand for affordable tablets, with HP’s fire sale of its defunct TouchPad drawing huge sales and the immediate popularity of Amazon’s new tablet, and it is therefore price, some analysts are speculating, that will put the ‘mini’ in the rumoured “iPad Mini”, not the size.