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.
- Google's Nexus 7 tablet garners strong reviews. David Pogue at the New York Times, best known for his Apple coverage, rates the Nexus 7 a worthy iPad opponent.
- Amazon is rumored to be prepping its next Kindle Fire.
- Microsoft talks up its Surface tablet meets laptop concoction.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.