When competitors to Apple's iPad came out with smaller 7-inch screen tablet computers in 2010, CEO Steve Jobs famously declared them "dead on arrival." Now, under new management, Apple appears to be more open to the idea.
Today, seven months after Jobs' death, The Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD site reported that Apple may be about to introduce a "Mini-Me" iPad, specifically noting that component suppliers in Asia are gearing up mass production of just such a device. The current iPad sports a 9.7-inch screen and while AllThingsD doesn't say exactly what screen size the supposed iPad Mini will come in, it said it will be "less than 8 inches."
Such rumors have been percolating for months, and we'll find out soon enough if they are true. But if they are, it won't be because Apple's new executive ranks are abandoning Jobs' legacy and reputation as a technology and product design genius. Instead, it's because they are following Apple's once-provocative ad tag line to "Think Different."
Jobs succeeded by bringing in the right people, nurturing them and impressing upon them his vision, which they have adopted. They include people like Tim Cook, who succeeded him as CEO, and Jonathan Ive, the senior vice president of industrial design, whose work product includes the iPad as well as the iPhone, iMac and MacBook Air. They also include Scott Forstall, chief of Apple's mobile device software unit, who gave a presentation at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference last month about the upcoming iOS 6 operating system.
If they think Apple is ready to introduce a smaller iPad, what Jobs said two years ago shouldn't faze them. Besides, Jobs had a habit of dismissing criticism of Apple products lacking one feature or another as unimportant, only to add that feature to the next version. The original iPad was criticized by some for being great for consuming media but not for creating it. Sure enough, the iPad2, introduced in 2011, added the GarageBand app for creating music and iMovie for editing video, both carried over from the Mac.
Likewise, Jobs initially dismissed the 7-inch tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and RIM PlayBook as offering an inadequate user experience compared with the iPad. He dropped in on an Apple earnings conference call in October 2011 to note that a 7-inch screen has only 45 percent of the viewing area of an iPad and that on that small screen, the icons representing various apps would be too hard to touch to be useful.
Nonetheless, competitors went ahead with their 7-inch devices and have done fairly well. The Kindle Fire from Amazon has a 7-inch screen and runs on a variation of Google's Android mobile OS, while Google unveiled its own Nexus 7 at the Google I/O conference to favorable initial reviews.
The fact is that, dissing the competition aside, Apple is all about evolving the technology, improving the processor, the memory, the operating system, the touch-screen capabilities and the overall user experience.
Despite his penchant for hyperbole as well as ruthless competitiveness, Jobs is probably looking down on his successors at Apple and saying, "Okay, go ahead. Do it."