updated 09:04 pm EDT, Thu October 25, 2012
'We would never make' them for a variety of reasons
During the conference call with analysts earlier on Thursday, Apple's CFO Peter Oppenheimer and CEO Tim Cook talked in more detail about both the pricing of the new iPad mini as well as what distinguishes it from its competitors. Near the end of the call, Cook elegantly bridged the seeming disparity of former CEO Steve Jobs' disparaging comments about 7-inch tablets and Apple's current view, both by pointing out that the iPad mini isn't really in that class (it is 7.9 inches, significantly larger than most others) and that it is a no-compromises product.
Earlier in the call, Oppenheimer had been asked about a disparity of perceptions on the pricing. He had earlier referred to Apple selling the iPad mini at a "significantly reduced margin" compared to most other Apple products, saying it had been "priced aggressively." When an analyst said that some public reaction was that the price was not aggressive in light of Amazon's Kindle HD or Galaxy Nexus 7 (which start at $199 for the most basic model), he said the iPad mini was not "a small, cheap tablet," but rather that it was the full iPad 2 experience miniaturized.
Oppenheimer pointed out that the larger screen on the iPad mini (35 percent larger than a seven-inch tablet, giving a usability area up to 50 percent larger) was a significant factor that buyers would clearly see over its competitors. He also noted that the iPad mini comes with two full cameras, a hi-resolution back camera and an "HD" Facetime camera on the front, whereas both of the others have only one camera that is not as high-quality as the iPad mini's back camera.
The iPad mini also features dual-band (5GHz and 2.4GHz) Wi-Fi and a 3G/LTE option, and uses the A5 chip which is significantly faster than the chips used in low-end tablets, and even competes with quad-core Tegra chips. Finally, Oppenheimer said, the fit and finish of the all-metal unibody construction is an obvious distinguishing factor when customers can see and feel the devices.
Cook added his comments later, when asked about the "debate" over the form factor of the iPad mini, a reference to Jobs' remarks that a 7-inch screen was "too small" to be truly useful as a tablet, that icons and other information would be too small to see and touch as effectively (and at the time Jobs make the remarks, that was arguably true) and that one of his one executives, Eddy Cue, had written a later memo saying that the experience of using a 7-inch Android tablet hadn't been bad except for web surfing.
Cook quickly emphasized that the iPad wasn't really in the same class as true 7-inch tablets, since the screen was so much larger than a 7-inch and because the iPad mini had the same (lower, which means text and icons appear larger) resolution as the iPad 2. He noted also that unlike the competing tablets, the iPad mini had access to all 275,000-plus iPad-only apps and could also use most of the 500,000 iPhone apps through pixel doubling. The usable size is even more significant than the 35 percent physically larger screen, he said.
Based on these factors, Cook made his case that Jobs had been and remains correct: the seven-inch form factor isn't right for a distinct-from-phone, high-quality experience. "We don't think they [7-inch screen tablets] are good products," he said. "[Apple] could not make a 7-inch tablet ... we [still] would never make one."