'iPad Mini' an Unlikely Apple Strategy

Despite rumors of a 7-inch "iPad mini," one Apple expert doesn't see that strategy in the Mac playbook.

Although Apple founder Steve Jobs roundly dismissed any notion of a smaller version of the iPad, reports are bubbling up again that an Apple tablet with a screen size closer to 7 inches is in the works.

Media reports are coming from unnamed sources in Taiwan and China, including a report from Chinese portal NetEase confirming that Apple will launch a smaller tablet in the third quarter of 2012 to €œcounterattack the Windows 8 army.€ (Thank you, Google Translate.)

Some analysts and news reports have suggested a smaller iPad with a price point in the area of $300 could deliver a fatal blow to Google Android tablets and any upcoming Microsoft Windows 8 tablets.

However, Michael Oh, president of Apple retail and care specialist TechSuperpowers, said he believes Apple is not going to dive into this space. He dismisses the rumors as evidence of prototypes, not actual for-market products.

€œThe space in that sub-$300 tablet sector is really crowded, or it will be very soon,€ he said, noting strong sales of Amazon€™s Kindle Fire tablet and the numerous Android devices in various form factors. Oh explained that when Microsoft Windows 8 tablets start shipping, they could take some momentum away from Android 7-inch tablets, increasing competition further.

In addition, Apple doesn€™t divide up their product lines unless there is a clear differentiating factor, Oh said. €œThey look at specific use cases€”like the iPod shuffle, for people who like to go running or are on the go, or the iPod touch, which is their premium model for people who want to download applications.

€œWith the tablet line, it€™s difficult for me to differentiate between different tablets other than size. If they do it, there would have to be something very unique about it to differentiate it from the larger iPad,€ he said.

However, Oh noted that Apple is changing, and it is doing some things differently€”in some cases, trying things that Jobs, who passed away last year, would never have done.

€œIt is possible that they may look at it from a standpoint of €˜let's corner the market€™ and put the nail in the coffin of Android or Microsoft," Oh said. "Apple sells on value, not necessarily on price. I don€™t think it€™s compatible with their current business model. But they could change significantly if they wanted to.€

Of course, when you€™ve got a company where everything it announces seems to be a blockbuster seller (see iPad, iPad 2, the new iPad, et al), what it may come down to for Apple is the bottom line.

Oh, as a dedicated Apple customer, knows what he would do if the "iPad mini" actually saw the light of day. €œOh yeah, of course, I€™d buy one,€ he said. €œPart of the perks of my job is having one of everything. But it would have to be really thin and very sexy.€