For several months leading up to October, reports were swirling that Apple was working on a tablet that would deliver a smaller screen size than that of the 9.7-inch iPad. After that long wait, Apple finally showed off the device, called the iPad Mini, and shipped it in select countries Nov. 2. Apple has not said how many iPad Mini units have been sold, but the company did announce recently that a total of 3 million iPads, including both the full-size fourth-generation model and the iPad Mini, were sold during their first weekend of availability.
Such success is nothing new for Apple. However, the company’s iPad Mini is a bit of an oddball in Apple’s product mix. This is the first time that Apple has tried to succeed with an underpowered and smaller tablet. It’s also the first time that Apple is effectively undercutting its popular, larger iPad on price. Needless to say, the iPad Mini is a major change agent within Cupertino.
The iPad Mini is also having an impact on the broader tablet market. In one way or another, the iPad Mini is affecting Apple, its customers and its competitors. And as the device makes it through the holiday shopping season, its impact might be felt even more than any of those stakeholders expect.
Here are the ways that the iPad Mini changes the tablet market for both good and bad.
1. It legitimizes smaller screen sizes
For two years, Apple said that it didn’t see any reason to ever launch a tablet with a smaller screen size than the 9.7-inch display found in its larger iPad. And yet, it now has a tablet with a 7.9-inch display. By launching the iPad Mini, the company has finally legitimized tablets with small screen sizes, including those from competitors.
2. Will the next trend be 8-inch screens?
That said, Apple is winning on screen size in the lower-end market. As noted, the iPad Mini comes with a 7.9-inch screen. Most other smaller tablets have 7-inch displays. Given the game of catch-up that so many tablet vendors have been playing over the last couple of years, it might not be long before they trade in their 7-inch slates for 8-inch models.
3. Apple’s footprint expands
One of the nice things about launching another iPad is that Apple’s tablet market share should only expand in the coming quarters. After all, if research firm IDC’s figures are correct and Apple owns 50 percent of the tablet market now, with another slate on store shelves, that figure should only go up.
4. The iPad is now being cannibalized
Exactly how much Apple’s tablet market share will go up in the coming quarters is unknown at this point. While the company's additional tablet options will help matters, numerous analysts suggest that the iPad Mini will cannibalize sales of its larger iPad. One report suggests that for every 4 million iPads sold, 1 million will be iPad Mini sales that would have been sales of the larger slate if not for Apple’s new product. Keep that in mind as tablet sales figures keep leaking out.