Apple iPad Mini chatter: Why it matters

Apple iPad Mini chatter: Why it matters

Summary: Should Apple launch a 7-inch iPad there are a bevy of tablet market ramifications. For now, just talk of an iPad Mini is exquisitely timed as rivals ramp another assault.


Apple is reportedly prepping an iPad Mini---a roughly 7-inch version of its juggernaut tablet---and the timing of the chatter couldn't come at a more interesting time.

To wit:

These various reports and rumors all surfaced in the last two weeks or so. Enter the well placed stories about Apple's iPad Mini.

Both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is prepping the iPad Mini. The between the lines reading: The iPad Mini chatter is designed to freeze folks who want a smaller iPad and may ponder the Nexus 7.


The timing of all these tablet moving parts can't be mere coincidence.

Should Apple launch a smaller iPad it's going to have wide ramifications. Here's a look at just a few.

  1. The 7-inch form factor will be cemented as a viable option. The 7-inch tablet has been a bit of a tablet step child. The iPad has ruled with its 10-inch screen and Amazon was the first to make 7-inches viable in the market. The jury is still out on the 7-inch tablet space, but if Apple jumps in that size is here to stay.
  2. The low-end of the tablet market matters. A $399 iPad could be a short-term fix if Apple really goes with the iPad Mini. A smaller screen at a lower starting price could keep Apple as the unchallenged tablet leader for a long time.
  3. Businesses will have more options. The argument for tablets smaller than the iPad was that they can fit in lab coats and work better for industry applications. If I had a dime for every time some rival tablet maker said the iPad was too big...
  4. Apple can own the tablet market. Apple already owns the high-end and has the supply chain to take on the low end of the market. With a low-end market encroachment, Apple basically ensures that any tablet trade-up activity will stay in its court.
  5. Ecosystem may determine the 7-inch tablet winner. Apple clearly has the ecosystem and Amazon proved that its services can sell a tablet too. Google's offerings need to be built out a bit, but the company will get there. However, an iPad Mini would attract price conscious tablet buyers. Assuming price parity at the low end, ecosystem and brand wins the day.
  6. Price isn't a differentiator. Let's say Apple hits a $250 price point and does it profitably. Price at the low-end isn't a competitive weapon. Amazon's Kindle Fire sold because it was $199. The Nexus 7 is sharp partially because it's a great value. If Apple gets close to the $200 mark it nullifies all the value plays.


Nexus 7 with Jelly Bean: a large smartphone without the phone

Why Apple doesn't need a 7-inch iPad

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, Google, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Maybe... Maybe not.

    I've seen articles like this before and over several different Apple models like iPods, iPhones and etc. It seems whenever the other OEM's get going in a certain direction the assumption is Apple will HAVE to follow. I've been paying attention to Apple for many a year now and I find that assumption to almost always be wrong... Not always mind you but almost always. Apple has a good thing going with it's i devices. It sells at a healthy profit margin then makes monies off of after sales stuff like apps, movies and accessories. The closest competitor sells at a loss Amazone and makes money on after sales stuff like the iPad. Still what that means is they have to sell X amount of product per Kindle Fire sale just to break even. I'm not sure why anyone things this will work long term cause that has yet to be proven. This and the long history of the PC Price Wars. Dell who use to rule this arena now struggles to get into other businesses models where they can make better money. HP which took over the number one spot from Dell in PC sales recently tried to simply drop PC sales. The list goes on and on and on to represent that in the past this model has destroyed or crippled many an OEM and those who are said to have succeeded seem intent of find other monies from bundling blankware on their system to simply getting out of the PC business. Not sure this is a business model I'd be eager to jump into. Just saying....

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • I've always got a kick out of the notion

      that the gold medalist has to copy the silver and bronze medalists.
      • Well, the iPhone is a copy of prior smartphone designs...

        ...wouldn't be the first time Apple copies an existing design and highly refines it into a consumer-friendly package, like how the iPhone is a copy of the Palm/Windows Mobile 6 UI.
        • …well not quite

          Windows Mobile 6 released February 12, 2007 (, iPhone intro'd January 9 2007. Apart from app icons the Palm user experience very different and dated to iOS. Palm's precursor the Apple Newton, which had app icons, launched 1987.
      • ...Blackberry did just that....

        .....can't keep selling to the high end as there's no growth in that. Best sell to everyone....bye bye Blackberry.
      • Don't make me laugh.

        That was a poor analogy to say the least.

        Your not dealing with the necessity of a gold medalist trying to copy silver and bronze medalists at all. Completely different dynamic.

        If your going to compare this to athletes, its far more like a champion in one kind of division of a sport trying to step up, or step down or sideways for that matter, into a different division of the sport to become dominant there as well.

        And that does happen, boxing, and wrestling it happens, I would imagine it happens from time to time in any sport where the analogy could be properly compared.

        And the issue is; why would Apple want to do this?

        The answer is simple. There may be more profits too be made. I have no doubt Apple has looked into this, and I also have no doubt that if Apple has determined there are realistic profits to be made they will do it.

        And why not? This is not a puzzle, this is not unusual and its not a tricky question.

        Its simple. If there is money to be made in selling a smaller form factor of Apples iPad then there is good reason for Apple to make a smaller iPad and sell it. The only reason they would not be likely to do it in such a case is if for some strange reason they couldn't get it right or make it profitable. But that takes back to the start doesn't it.
      • Gold medal in what?

        Gold medal is awarded to the very best not the most common.
        The ipad is the most common tablet. It is the tablet makes up like 60% of a 10 horse race and came 3rd to 8th. And the Apple fans all jump up and down bragging about how they have the most entries in that race.
    • Apple following others

      "It seems whenever the other OEM's get going in a certain direction the assumption is Apple will HAVE to follow. I've been paying attention to Apple for many a year now and I find that assumption to almost always be wrong..."

      That may be true in general but Apple has shown they're willing to introduce new form factors in order to hit price points to keep competitors at bay. They were particularly successful at that with the iPod, and here we see a very analogous case.

      You think of Apple introducing 7" tablets as "following" the competitors but really the people making 7" units didn't do so because they were particularly enthralled with the form factor, they did it because there wasn't any other way to compete with Apple. Apple's supply chain is so good that it's impossible to undercut them on price without compromising somewhere, and the biggest cost areas are 1) screen; 2) battery; and 3) flash memory.

      Smaller screens need less battery, and they can cut out a lot of flash as long as they have the ability to take external cards. Pretty much every would-be competitor did all of those those things.

      I really expect them to make a new form factor. I think they'll do it like they did with the iPod, where they leave out things or degrade functionality in certain areas even if competitors don't. As we saw with the iPods Apple doesn't necessarily need to hit all the features competitors have to win, they just have to hit the high points and be fairly close on price. Leave out a camera or use lower-quality cameras, use older electronics, lower density display, less flash, stuff like that. If you look at the kinds of compromises they make with the iPod touch, I think you'll see the same things.

      The iPod touch also gives us an idea of what kind of price point they might try for. It sells for around $200 to start in a 8GB configuration. No way would Apple set it so low as to compete with it. $250 is, I think, the lowest they might go -- but I think I'd expect something more like $280 or $290. Less than $300, but filling the hole they currently have between the $200 iPod and the $400 last-generation iPad.

      I know there are people who think they have to come really close to $200 to compete with the Nexus 7, but I don't think they do. Google can't build the Nexus 7 fast enough to really make a big impact on iPad sales (a problem Amazon has too although it turned out not to really matter), but much more importantly Google can't sell it through retail channels without increasing the price pretty significantly. As long as it's only available via Google itself it will have very limited market impact.
      • retail pricing?

        uh....all the nexus 7 retailers here in the states (staples, office max, walmart etc) are selling it for the same price google is.
    • THE device Apple needs to copy

      is the Samsung Galaxy Note!
      Forget about 7" tablets, make a large screen phone and they will come!
    • Apple Mini iPad

      I agree with you. I really don't the value for Apple to market the "mini iPad". At best, they would just have a presence in the diminutive market of low cost device, at worst, they would cripple their successful and financially rewarding iPad market.
  • I must live under a large rock

    The people I know with an Apple product have an iPhone and then don't want another Apple product. When they bought their iPhone, it was the must have item and was the first smartphone for many people. It will be interesting to see how potentially a 4th iPad in two years would jive with the majority of people that don't have an iPad 3rd gen.

    It would also have to fit the right aspect ratio I would think, making it less convenient than a Kindle/Nook/Nexus/Playbook/etc... people want something small enough to fit in a purse or coat. Most coats I know are a bit more rectangular than boxy, especially big coat pockets... that said, I don't know a single person that actually keeps a tablet in a coat pocket.

    Seems like another story the tech media is writing for page views. This is the 3rd or 4th written in the last couple of hours.
    • It must be 4x3 aspect ratio!! No other option

      I am a big advocate of the 4x3 aspect ratio. Any competing tablet without that ratio instantly has points deducted for catering to a less efficient ratio more suited to movies. I assume that video/movie watching only makes up a small percentage of what a tablet is used for. I believe that almost every 7" device I've seen fails to meet this ratio (exception being most ebook readers). If Apple could deliver with a 7" device which has a true 4x3 (like the current iPad) then it instantly has a very visible device that stands apart from the crowd.
      • I agree that 4:3 rules!!!

        I've watched the commercials on TCM where Scorcese & others try to explain the letterboxing thing and I just don't get it!!!! I don't want to see black bars anywhere!!! I also wish we could just go back to black & white. I really miss the golden age of television and I want my personal device to reflect that!!!
        • It's not a TV or movie viewer

          It's a device for doing a slew of things, which watching Youtube is only one of many. TV and movies made a transition over to a wide format based upon viewing a large, wall-sized image (or bigger), but for almost 600 years it has been accepted that a 4:3 aspect is far more pleasing when viewing a small device (such as paper and books). This is a universal preference. It is nothing new. Plus. the smaller the device, the better suited 4:3 is! So from this perspective, the companies marketing a wide 7" screen are actually showing they haven't done their research.
          • Do you seriously believe that???

            Top three uses for tablets:

            1) Games
            2) Social Media Interaction
            3) Video (YouTube / Television / Movies)

            Please don't kid yourself.

            BTW, your reasons have no leg to stand on anyway. Books and paper are not in a 4:3 format... Granted, they aren't in 16:9 or 16:10 either, but it's a mute point nonetheless.

            What people DO care about, IMO, is the ability to hold it for long periods of time without fatigue. It's a couch item to most people and therefore they want it to fit their couch lifestyle.

            I will admit, however, that this comes from a user of a non-iPad tablet who REALLY enjoys his tablet and would hate an iPad, but whose wife loves her iPad and the many conveniences it comes with. Most people don't want my tablet (Samsung Series 7 Slate - Almost doesn't count as a tablet as it's a 'real' computer) and I think they're crazy, but I don't try to push my own preferences onto other people as if everyone thinks the way I do.

            Oh - And if you took mmckee58 seriously at all, I shouldn't even be wasting my time writing this... ( ;
          • The word is "moot"....

            Comes from the fact that town/council meetings used to be called moots.
          • the paper paradigm

            why are we trying to mimick paper?
            we have an INTERACTIVE display device which can SCROLL
            Paper has different UI requirements, you can't scroll the page, you don't have onscreen controls. I throw up when I see ebook readers that FLIP pages rather than scroll. This is stupid UI which tries to emulate paper UI.
            I much prefer reading and scrolling than flipping halfway thru a sentence or paragraph.
            Don't ever try to emulate paper, it's just dumb and it is not efficient with an interactive device.
          • Haven't done their research

            It is not about the research. It's about cost. 16x9 displays have always been cheaper to produce than 4x3 displays! Or 3x2 displays (which you refer to, in fact).
      • 4:3 is good for what?

        I have an iPad2 right here next to a 10" Toshiba Thrive.
        I can't find a situation where the 4:3 screen works better.
        Easy case right here is viewing this forum (or any forum or website which is generally vertical) the 800x1280 screen simply sh17s on the iPads 768x1024.
        In landscape mode, I can dock browser controls in the extra space on the side and free up vertical real estate.
        Bring up onscreen keyboard in portrait on both and it's dead easy to see the 3:4 iPad leaves less space for content and clearly inferior.
        Someone with tablets in BOTH format, please show me a case for 1024x768 which is superior to 1280x800. PLEASE!