iPad Mini: The Apple falls to Earth

iPad Mini: The Apple falls to Earth

Summary: Two years ago, Steve Jobs broke his then-silence to slam the idea of a seven-inch tablet, predicting nothing but pain for their makers. Now Apple looks set to launch one of its own. So how will it explain the change of heart?

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TOPICS: Apple, iPad, Mobility, Tablets
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Steve Jobs was not known for his constant contact with the press. His latter years at Apple saw few interviews, fewer open Q&As and almost no exposure that wasn't carefully stage managed or filtered for the favourable. The high priest had retreated to his monastery, presumably to meditate telepathically with Jonny Ives.

Yet in October 2010, on a regular earnings call between Apple executives, press and analysts, Pastor Jobs made a rare public sermon. As uncompromising as it was unexpected, he took the opportunity not only to sing the praises of his company — basking in its first $20bn quarter — but to denounce the ungodly Android, Google and anything connected with the Mountain View axis of evil.

iPad
Stand by the 'iPad Mini'. But how will Apple explain its change of heart on seven-inch tablets?

By the time he got to the abomination of seven-inch tablets, the Preacher was in full flow. Here's just a taste of the full condemnation

"[...] it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size. [...] we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps."

"[...] the current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small, and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the seven-inch bandwagon with an orphaned product. Sounds like lots of fun ahead."

Even giving Jobs the 'current crop' get-out, his six-point sermon against the unholiness of seven inches was a classic blast of Apple reality which accepted no counter-argument.

Enter the Mini

Fast forward two years to now.

We don't know for sure that Apple will launch a seven-inch tablet this week, and we don't know it will be called the iPad Mini, but the post-Jobs Apple has started to leak like a Swedish condom. It's a good bet that one or both of these things will happen.

So how will Tim Cook explain the sudden conversion from seven being the number of the beast? Jobs himself wouldn't have had a problem — like any religious leader presenting a stark reformulation of the scriptures, anyone bringing up the contradictions would be cast out like a blasphemer and laughed into insignificance.

Cook, being both more logical and more procedural than Jobs, will probably feel it necessary to explain the change, if pressed. He'll pick and mix from evolving market conditions, new consumer awareness, developer comfort with the form factor, better technology suited for the smaller tablet, and so on. None of which will answer any of Jobs's original objections, and all of which will be to some extent true.

For what will make the iPad mini possible is the collapse of the reality distortion field and the crashing of Apple back to planet Earth. Sure, seven-inch tablets are worth having — as anyone who finds themselves addicted to their Nexus 7 will testify (sing it, brothers and sisters). And sure, Apple was developing one even as Steve Jobs pronounced them ungodly.

But unless the device has some new magic in it that all the leaks have missed, it will be tainted by the reality that Jobs decried. It will be in the market after the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire, running an existing OS — although probably with some new services — and with all the arguable benefits of existing Apple products. Siri will tell you where to go, but Maps won't know how to get there.

It is the earthbound Apple that launches the iPad Mini, and it will have the same mix of good, bad and indifferent points as anybody else's product. Without the blessings of the high priest, that won't be enough to maintain the company on a higher plane than everyone else: we shall have to seek Nirvana elsewhere.

Topics: Apple, iPad, Mobility, Tablets

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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79 comments
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  • Um change of leadership... Seems simple enough to me.

    Also with it's volume purchasing power Apple has the ability to make this a very profitable venture while many others don't have the same ability.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • Not related to change of leadership; court documents showed that by very ..

      ... late of 2010 Jobs was already convinced by reports that there is market for 7"-like tablets, so designing process started right away.

      However, all of Jobs' arguments he named two years ago against smaller tablets are true to this day; lets see how Apple will treat those difficulties. There are patents from 2010 that, if implemented, would make UI scale up in the place to which user gets its finger -- before it actually touches the screen. This could allow big iPad applications work almost normally on much smaller screen.

      Whether this technology will be implemented, or Apple will set a new type of tablet applications for this size of screen -- or both of those solutions -- is to be seen.

      Rupert Goodwins' mention of Kindle or Nexus 7, it is irrelevant. iPad mini does not have to be another revolution or do any special magic to make those not very much popular devices even more unnoticeable.
      DDERSSS
      • Regardless...why is everyone all giggly about a product that does not exist

        I just don't get it. Wait for it to be released or even announced before you make judgement calls. Predictions only work for the psychics....who pocket the money of the fools.
        NOmoreMicrosoftATall
      • You've obviously never held a Nexus 7

        The term "addiction" certainly applies to the iPad. I have a director colleague who is glued to his throughout the workday. But, I now find myself equally "dependent" on my Nexus 7, but in a much more convenient and manageable way. His iPad is always "there" wherever he is. My Nexus is usually invisible unless I actually need to use it. When he does something on his, I do the same on mine. His? $600. Mine? $250. Of course, neither of us is doing spreadsheet analyses or other complex computer tasks . . . just the "normal" things most "normal" people do on tablets that are less than ultrabook size. I'm thrilled, not envious. 7" is a dream form factor, and I miss nothing in the Nexus 7 experience. Heck, I'm now streaming my 650 CD collection in the Google Cloud through Google Play through my Nexus to my wife's new Ford Focus with MS Sync. Nothing Apple in the mix. Competition is good.
        spyder3010
        • crappy hardware

          mediocre in every single detail .... you hv no experience
          dkaparunakis
      • excelent your comment

        by the way Ruppert we do not need you to buy any apple product.... stay away with your crappy technology
        dkaparunakis
    • Apple's purchasing power is not what makes them so profitable, although it

      helps.

      What makes Apple so profitable, is the huge markup the put on each and everyone of their products. It's been shown that, Apple would still make a hefty profit on their products if they didn't have their purchasing power, because, the huge markup would make up for any of their higher expenses in production.
      adornoe
      • Purchasing power

        In order to make a profit, the price of a product must exceed the cost of manufacture, advertising, retail operations, transportation (half way around the world), and many other costs, such as R&D, and warranty support, and development of the OS. Then there is a bit of profit to be made by each company that participates in manufacture, and all those other steps. So, without the 'purchasing power', the margin of profit would be reduced, or the price would force the product to be so highly priced that it would discourage sales. Does anyone beleive the iPad Mini would be successful in the marketplace if it were priced at $800? Of course not.
        rphunter42
        • The fact remains that, total cost of production for iGadgets, is very low

          and the huge markup for those gadgets is way above what over manufacturers charge for comparable products.

          If Apple has an advantage with their purchasing power, wouldn't they be doing it with the purpose of trying to be more competitive against the competition? But, in fact, that purchasing power is strictly for Apple to make an even bigger profit out of each product. Instead of having a markup of, as an example, 150% above the total cost of production, they could easily still be very profitable with "just" 100% markup. Their lower costs of production with their purchasing power, does not translate to savings that are passed down to the consumer. Apple has a right to charge whatever they wish for any of their products, but, their purchasing power does nothing for the consumer.
          adornoe
          • Who said anything about it doing something for the consumer?

            Their purchasing power provides Apple with two things, the ability to be more profitable with current sales as well as the option to lower the retail price if they ever feel the need and still make a healthy profit. They most certainly are not required to pass their purchasing power savings on to anybody.
            non-biased
      • Do you know nothing about business?

        Buying power most definitely has an affect on profitability. Their buying power allow them to keep their margins high while hitting a lower retail price thus allowing them to sell more. Sure, they would be as profitable per unit without the buying power but selling less at a higher retail so overall less profitable.
        non-biased
  • Steve Jobs also hated the idea...

    of video on the iPod. I guess Apple fell to earth in 2005 when it introduced the video capable iPod.
    msalzberg
    • Maybe they fell to earth when he left in 87?

      Isn't the apple/android thing just a little o so last month? I mean as bandwagoning and clickbating goes, this article doesn't even have any news.

      Just to summise - we know exactly the same about future iOS devices as we did a month ago - nothing. We've had no photos, leaks, or conformations. What we do know is apple are about to release new desktop macs. How can we peice this together? Well current imacs are over a year out of date; lacking ivybridge and usb3. Add to that the fact that they are beginning to go out of stock in selected models suggests apple gearing up for a replacement. Additionally we know that new mac pro's will be available in the spring as apple said so.

      These may be better things to hate on if you wish... I'd like to see a 7 inch ipad myself but the dact is that they're kust rumors... Like the apple television set - a relenteless rumor driven by people who missunderstood the term apple tv.

      The real tablet news at the moment is the introduction of windows tablets... Maybe tou have some opinions on microsoft?
      MarknWill
      • You don't want to read mine.

        snicker...ha ha
        NOmoreMicrosoftATall
    • Or maybe when...

      they made the switch from RISC to Intel. Up until then, we constantly heard how Moto/IBM chips performed better in spite of losing the clock speed battle. Then a change of heart and the rest is history.
      TroyMcClure
      • They did/DO perform better.

        Problem was the supply was not there and the relationship was souring. Plus Apple wanted to make it easier to port program code between the to big operating systems.

        So you see...it's not a change of heart. It's a matter of practicality. RISC is better.
        NOmoreMicrosoftATall
  • Yeah yeah yeah...

    ...and Henry Ford only wanted black Model Ts.. Whatever.
    Tony Burzio
  • What's all this "religious leader" nonsense about?

    Tim Cook is the CEO of a publicly traded company with shareholders. If he determines there is a market for and profit in a 7" iPad, no matter what a deceased founder once thought, then he's going to do it. No "beasts", "conversion" or any of that nonsense required.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • I agree.

      But some folks like to demonize Apple to make Microsoft look better.
      NOmoreMicrosoftATall
      • I agree

        It isn't working...
        rphunter42