updated 09:10 pm EDT, Thu August 5, 2010
Editorial: Apple may decide against smaller tablet
Rumors are swirling that Apple is coming close to unveiling a new, seven-inch iPad to give consumers another tablet option for those that want to be a bit more mobile. The device would reportedly boast the same basic features, but the biggest difference would be the 2.7-inches of screen real estate lopped off the new model. But is it really as exciting a prospect as some make it out to be?
Some are excited about the prospect of a new seven-inch iPad. They reason that the device would be easier to carry around, it would be cheaper, and perhaps most importantly, it would get closer to matching the size of the Amazon Kindle, the iPad's chief competitor in the e-reader market.
All those points sound fine, and a cheaper iPad would make sense. But I don't see any value in a seven-inch iPad. Sure, it would be smaller and carrying it around would be easier, but if that's all there is to the device, why wouldn't a shopper just buy an iPhone or iPod touch and be done with it?
The iPad is a fantastic device. I bought mine at launch, and so far, I couldn't be happier with it. I think the screen is just right for a device of that size, and at the introductory price of just $499, it's relatively affordable. I have no significant complaints.
But I would have some serious complaints with a seven-inch model. For one, a seven-inch screen starts getting into the dangerous territory of being too small for users to watch movies and enjoy Web videos on. Plus, a smaller footprint effectively puts the iPad into the middle-of-the-road area where consumers have trouble making up their minds. They reason that for, say, $100 more, they could get a much bigger device. Or, for a $100 less, they can get a smartphone that provides all the same functionality, but adds in calling. Confusion doesn't help sell tech products, and Apple is the master of avoiding overlap.
I'm all for devices that are more pocket-friendly, but we need to decide what the iPad is all about. Is the tablet a device designed to make you more productive and help you enjoy entertainment? Or is it a device that you want to store in your pocket and whip out when you have nothing better to do?
If it's the latter, I don't see value in it. For one, what size pockets do people have that they can slip the iPad mini in and be comfortable? And secondly, if the iPad mini gets too small, it's in danger of becoming a PDA. And we all know how well that turned out the last time Apple made something too big to be pocketable but too small to fill in for a notebook.
Apple has hit the sweet spots with its iPhone and the iPad. The iPhone is perfectly sized and designed for those who want to be productive while on the go, and the iPad is ideal for those that want an entertaining experience wherever they are. The disparity between the two devices makes them appealing to just about any consumer. Why give that up for the sake of a slightly cheaper tablet?
By Don Reisinger