Steve Jobs dampens 7-Inch iPad speculation

A reminder that Apple unreleased product rumours always need to be taken with a big grain of salt was delivered by an unimpeachable authority yesterday.

Along with speculation about a redesigned MacBook Air and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, have been prognostications that a 7-inch display version of the iPad tablet was in Apple's product pipeline. However a large bucket of icewater was thrown on that construct by none other than Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his comments during the company's fiscal Q4 financials conference call Monday Jobs pretty much putting paid to any possibility of a 7 inch iPad materializing in the foreseeable future.

Jobs observed that while intuition might suggest that a seven-inch tablet screen would provide 70 percent of the benefits of a 10-inch screen like the one used in the iPad, in reality this is not the case.

Because nominal screen size measurements are taken on the diagonal dimension, a seven-inch display calculates out to just 45 percent of the viewing area of the iPad’s 10-inch screen, and in Mr. Jobs's opinion, that is too small an area to support "great tablet apps."

He noted that while an increase in screen resolution could conceivably compensate for some of the difference, in practical terms the machine would need to ship with a supply of sandpaper so users could send down their fingers to about one quarter of normal digit size in order to efficiently tap, flick or pinch display elements, and based on Apple's
extensive user testing, Jobs maintains that a 10 inch display is the practical minimum for high-quality tablet computing.

Jobs assumes that every tablet computer user will also have a smartphone (not necessarily the case; there's no service support for smartphones where I live, but a WiFi tablet would still be very useful), making easy portability argument in favor of 7 inch display tablets faulty. He concludes that "The seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad."

Personally, I'm inclined to agree with Jobs on that point. Tablets with smaller then 10 inch displays have little appeal to me for the reasons he cited. However, his comments will no doubt disappoint folks who've been pining for a 7 inch iPad, but it looks like they're going
to have plenty of 7-inch tablet alternatives available soon.