This Week in Tablets: 5 reasons why the 7in iPad Mini is a bad idea for Apple

...And three reasons why a smaller version of the iPad just might work.

Google may not sell many 7in Nexus tablets, but the company has certainly helped create momentum around the form-factor.

With the Nexus 7's pending public release and rumours that Amazon is close to announcing a second Kindle Fire tablet later this month or in August, attention is beginning to shift to Apple yet again.

There are never any guarantees with Apple, which marches to the beat of its own drummer, but it is beginning to feel like a foregone conclusion that a 7in iPad Mini—or whatever it is named—will be released by year’s end.

To which I find myself wanting to scream: "Apple, don't release the 7in mini iPad!! YOU'LL KILL YOURSELF!!"

Overly dramatic, but true. I can't help but think that this release will represent a turning point in Apple's stunning three-year run of tablet dominance, for five reasons:

1. For the first time ever, Apple will be chasing the market. This certainly takes some shine off the brand. Barring a major dose of surprise and delight, for the first time in a long time, a new Apple product won’t be synonymous with the notion of innovation and novelty.

2. For the first time ever, Apple will descend into the middle or low-middle tiers of the tablet market. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se—it’s an important market slice. But it’s not easy to operate at both levels of the ecosystem. Ask Research in Motion.

3. At seven inches, a tablet screen feels like more of a commodity. Again, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not special.

4. I can’t claim credit for thinking of this, but PC World's John Mello did makes an interesting point that an iPad Mini might actually cannibalize Apple's existing tablet sales. This wouldn’t happen overnight, but I could see a certain cannibalisation creep occurring over time.

5. Perhaps the biggest concern over a 7in iPad is that the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was fairly vociferous in his dismissal of the form-factor. This is troublesome because it probably means there’s not 100 per cent backing at Apple around such a device.

For what it’s worth, Jobs was wrong on this one. It seems pretty clear to me that while smaller tablets aren’t great for creating content, they’re ideally suited for consuming books and video.

Knowing Apple, an iPad Mini just might work

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, there are some reasons why Apple can and should release an iPad Mini, namely:

1. A number of everyday mainstream consumers are going to be buying 7in tablets. The momentum the Kindle Fire created last year will carry over into the holidays this year. The main draw is the e-reading capacity of the smaller size device.

Here’s the trick: If Apple can do what it does best and come up with a feature or usage that is unique, surprising, and delightful, the company can and will dominate this category just as easily as it has ruled the larger format. Even a focussed 7in iBook with Siri and a 1,200 x 800 IPS screen would work.

The only question is: What will that surprise and delight be?

2. Apple really has no choice but to release a 7in tablet. Everyone else is doing it. Analyst Jack Gold said it best when he told TabTimes as much late in the week. “Everyone’s acting like this would be strange behaviour for Apple to do a lower cost iPad,” he said. “But they don’t have a choice. There’s absolute demand for a seven inch tablet.”

3. It is becoming apparent that iOS device sales are leading to increased Mac OS sales. Earlier in the week, CNN reported that Horace Dediu (of Asymco fame) offered up a data analysis validating this movement. According to him, the gap between the Mac and PC is at itslowest point since 1996.

The Mac, Dediu concluded, is growing faster than the PC, mostly because the MacBook has become “easily differentiable as a ‘better’ laptop.”

Dediu elaborated that it the MacBook “was not faster, did not have more storage or any metrics being used to sell PC. It was just better as an integrated product.”

He also said the resulting consequences “are dire for Microsoft. The wiping out of any platform advantage around Windows will render it vulnerable to direct competition.”

All true. If this trend sustains itself—and there’s no reason to think it won’t, given the wave of enthusiasm for Apple’s products—there’s no real reason for Apple to stop pumping out multiple generations of tablets or iPhones.

This logic, unfortunately, takes me right back to the beginning of my thoughts. A glut of Apple products takes the shine off the brand by commoditising it. At such a point, Apple may fall prey to its own success. By that point, however, we could all be living in an Apple world.

This week’s winner: Proview

Apple paid the beleaguered electronics manufacturer, which is reportedly mired in debt, $60 million to finally settle the company’s infringement lawsuit over the iPad name in China. $60 million is chump change for Apple, particularly in comparison to the revenue it will reap selling its tablet in the country.

This week’s loser: Notebook manufacturers

A recent DisplaySearch report suggests that tablet sales are eating into notebook sales, and that tablets will grow from 121 million units sold this year to a whopping 416 million devices sold by 2017. At the same time, the report—Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast—predicts that during the same period, notebook sales will only climb from 208 million units sold to 393 million.

On the horizon

The big event this week is VentureBeat's MobileBeat. Held in downtown San Francisco at the Palace Hotel, this will be a gathering of some of the finest mobile- and tablet-oriented minds in the tech and Internet fields. On tap to speak: Box's Aaron Levie, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Mobile Google Head Jason Spero, and more. One of this year's sub-themes is "The Tablet Reset", and will focus on how to craft a compelling tablet strategy for your company. (TabTimes is a media partner of this conference.)

We can also expect to hear a lot more speculation about Amazon’s new Kindle Fire. It’s highly likely that a Kindle Fire 2 will be thinner and lighter. I’d also expect to see a new processor as well as dramatically improved battery life.

Simultaneously, we’ll begin to hear more and more rumours about the iPhone 5 and a newer, smaller tablet. Interestingly, we’re also beginning to hear rumours about a revision to the third-generation iPad. Thinner, lighter, and improved battery performance appear to be the goal here as well.

And pressing questions around Microsoft Office for tablet devices and for Windows 8 itself remain. My bet is that we’ll begin hearing and reading about all of the above over the course of the next two weeks.

Article Source: TabTimes