iPad Mini Doesn't Fit Apple Vision, Release Cycle

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-03-06 Print this article Print

Apple is planning a 7-inch version of the iPad for third-quarter 2012, according to some rumors. But that would run contrary to the company’s current trends.

Could Apple benefit from releasing a 7-inch tablet?

The company€™s reluctance to embrace a smaller tablet form factor is well-known. Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously used an October 2010 earnings call to denigrate 7-inch tablets as inferior to the company€™s 9.7-inch iPad. Before his passing a year later, he almost certainly produced a road map for his company€™s next few product cycles, and therefore, unless Apple executives decided to take the unlikely course of crumpling that plan and starting anew, it seems unlikely that the company will produce a smaller-screen iPad anytime soon.

Or will it? Citing unnamed €œindustry sources,€ DigiTimes reported March 1 that Apple will €œlikely€ start producing 7.85-inch iPads by the third quarter of 2012. Although that publication€™s track record is a little spotty when it comes to accurate Apple predictions,  The Wall Street Journal suggested Feb. 15 that Apple was working with component suppliers to €œtest a new tablet computer with a smaller screen.€ Websites such as BGR repeated the DigiTimes claim, which gave it momentum within the blogosphere.

Apple certainly doesn€™t need a smaller iPad model in order to help expand its customer base. A new survey by The Business Journals suggested that, among small and midsize businesses (SMBs), iPad use nearly quadrupled from 9 percent in 2010 to 34 percent in 2011. In addition, some 75 percent of SMB owners are apparently €œvery or somewhat familiar€ with the device.

And among general consumers, the iPad also continues to sell millions of units per quarter. Some 29 percent of respondents to a survey by mobile-ad network InMobi said they planned to purchase the next iPad, which the media has collectively dubbed €œiPad 3.€ Some 54 percent of those planning on an iPad 3 purchase do not already own a tablet. 

Apple is hosting an event March 7 where it€™s popularly expected to unveil the next iPad, which most are calling the iPad 3. Current rumors suggest the device will feature a high-resolution €œRetina Display,€ backed by a more powerful processor and support for 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Some news sources have also suggested the device will boast an improved camera and Siri, Apple€™s €œdigital personal assistant.€

With all that in mind, it seems unlikely that Apple would muddle its tablet line with a smaller iPad in the third quarter of this year. The company€™s tendency is to keep its offerings streamlined, and to release new versions of its mobile products on a rigid yearly cadence. Whatever Apple unveils March 7, that should probably be enough for it in 2012.

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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