Counterpoint: Maybe The iPad Mini Isn't Coming At All

Let's play Devil's Advocate for a spell. What if there is no iPad mini/iPad Air/iPad nano/whatever it's called now? What if Steve Jobs' original sentiment towards 7-inch tablets holds true? What then? What is the October 23 event all about if that's the case?

The October 23 event invitation sent out by Apple this morning bears the tagline: "We've got a little more to show you...". Apple invites always bear clues to what's going to be announced because — while it doesn't like responding to it — the company loves to create speculation. So from the use of the word "little" in the event tagline, we can assume we're going to see something from the smaller end of the product spectrum.

Based on the speculation swirling around a 7-inch iPad, the collective gadget mind immediately jumped to the event as the launchpad for the iPad mini, but not so fast there, partner. Apple have just said expect something smaller is coming, not necessarily an iPad.

What if the event is just to launch some new Mac products? We're now hearing convincing reports, about a week out from the event, that the Retina MacBook Pro will come out in a 13-inch form factor, and there's even speculation that a new Mac Mini is coming based on the product's annual refresh cycle. So if it's just going to be new laptops and a new Mac Mini, why did our minds jump immediately to the iPad mini?

Well, ever since there has been an iPad, there has been an iPad mini rumour. Every year leaks and speculation mounted that a smaller version of the iPad was coming, but events passed and the smaller device wasn't even mentioned. Then came Steve.

During his time with the company, Steve Jobs said that Apple would never make a 7-inch tablet because of how obnoxious it would be to use and because of a lower demand for such a form factor. Here's what he had to say a few years ago when Android first started to become a thing on tablets:

Almost all of [the tablets set for release in the coming months] use 7-inch screens. First, it appears to be only a handful of credible entrants and not an avalanche. Second, almost all of them use 7-inch screens as compared to the iPad's 10-inch screen. One naturally thinks that a 7 inch screen would offer 70 per cent of the benefits of a 10 inch screen, but unfortunately, this is far from the truth.
The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a 7 inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad's 10-inch screen. You heard me right, just 45% as large. If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down that screen, the screens on 7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display. This [7-inch] size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion.
While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user could sand their fingers to around 1/4 of their present size.
Apple has done extensive user testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we understand this stuff. There are clear limits of hour close you can physically place elements on the touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen is the minimum size required to create meaningful apps for tablets.
Every tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone. Its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse, its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to put a tablet in their pocket is clearly the wrong trade-off.
The seven inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.

To go against Steve's wishes and release the iPad mini would signal a huge departure from the business plan the co-founder prepared for the company before his demise. Furthermore, the new iPod Touch has just been priced at $329 (32GB) and $439 (64GB) respectively. Why, then would Apple go and cannibalise its own new products with the iPad mini? It makes approximately zero sense.

So with all of this to go on, why do we still have 7-inch tablets on the brain? Well, that's as easy as blaming Google and Asus.

The Nexus 7 came out to huge fanfare a few months ago. It's small, beautiful, thin and functional, and it shows that 7-inches is something that people want. It's an awesome corner of the tablet market Google and Asus have carved out for themselves, so naturally, if Google does something, Apple has to do it too, right? Wrong.

Apple almost never directly competes with Google. As we saw from the slightly underspecced iPhone 4S when it was launched, Apple doesn't care what's coming out from other players now or in the next 12 months, it's just focussed on putting out gadgets, products and services for customers likely to buy an Apple product. Devices that meet the Apple checklist of what something can or can't be.

It's something to get ready for then: the possibility that we might not see Tim Cook hold a 7.85-inch iPad above his head come Wednesday next week. If he doesn't at least you know why.

On a side note, though: I'm very happy to be proven wrong about this. All will be revealed come 23 October.


Comments

    Fair call - waiting until the day isn't too bad an idea, anyway. From memory, similar imagery was used at the announcement of the retina MBP?

    I for one would be interested in a Mini - I've got an iPad 1, and really feeling the limitations of 256Mb RAM (constant app crashes). Would love something more powerful and yet a little smaller/lighter.

    Only a week to wait though!

      So you have a device which crashes constantly, yet you would be willing to buy another from the same vendor? That's as stupid as that idiot yesterday with his rMBPro.

        Name calling already, no messing around. The OP mentioned that the 256 ram was causing his issues and the iPad mini if it does materialise will undoubtedly have more than that. Millions of users will contest to newer iPads having no such issue. Why don't you stick to microsoft discussions as you have no interest in Apple what so ever, other than to troll message boards.

        Yes, you're right MotorMouth. A device that, years after it was made, is slow when running modern software that was made for much more powerful devices? Unheard of!!

          I for one agree with him. I think it is totally unacceptable that I can't run CS6 on my 4 year old Windows Vista netbook. It's a bloody travesty!

    I have a better counterpoint - who cares? The media obsess over Apple in a way that totally belies their real place in the world. e.g. Today this nebulous announcement is more important to the media than the concrete announcement of specs, pricing and availability of Surface. It gets pride of place at smh.com.au and on The Verge. The Tele's website leads with it whilst completely ignoring the Surface story. Gizmodo seem to be one of the few places where it gets slightly lesser billing but still more than it deserves. iPhone's market share is only 16.9% in the US and they scrape for double-digit share in the personal computer market, globally. Despite the huge success of iPad, it has only impacted Intel's revenue by a tiny 5% over the last 12 months. They are relative nobodies whose impact on the world is no greater than dozens of other companies who get almost no media coverage by comparison.

    Why is that? It seems to be that the media is interested in Apple and the fact that the vast majority of their readerships is not is of no consequence. It's madness. When you have some actual information to impart, give it to us. In the meantime, how about more focus on real things?

    Last edited 17/10/12 11:14 am

      Think back to the first iPad release - it wouldn't have been as hyped up as the current gen releases because no one knew what it would become. Everyone was thinking it was a tablet mac, but then it was revealed to be an iPhone-based OS with a big screen.. and look at how popular it is now. It hasnt become popular because it's apple; apple has become much more popular because of the ipad.

      While I'm excited to see some competition from the Surface, and I genuinely look forward to seeing what it can do, you have to remember it's a product that no one knows how it will be to use day-to-day. People can't get as excited about a product they don't know that much about. On the other hand, maybe it's the fact that we already know what it is going to be that makes it less exciting?

      And your comment towards Owen - the limitations of the first ipad come from it's lack of RAM, not the OS, not any faults in the hardware. If you try to use and old trusty computer to play new games, it's going to fail.. it doesn't mean the new version will not work.

      I like how you use percentages to downplay just how popular their products are, here's another statistic for you, the most popular laptop of 2012 is the Macbook Pro which narrowly beat out the Macbook Air for second place.

      Asks 'who cares?'

      Writes a 200 word essay on why noone cares.

      Oh, MotorMouth. Never change.

      Last edited 17/10/12 2:56 pm

      Because of madness?
      I thought maybe they were getting that much media because they are the biggest tech company in the world.
      Don't get me wrong, surface looks amazing. You just need to chill out a little bit and stop being a troll.. you're taking it too personally.

        By revenue Samsung is the biggest as of 2011. Apple was number 6

      Did you miss the memo about Apple being the biggest company in the world? The biggest company in the world had had 81% of the tablet market share in 2011, they now have 52% because of competition from smaller cheaper tablets. Apple is bringing out a smaller cheaper tablet too.

      Of course that is a story.

      Figures from: http://blog.w3i.com/2012/10/10/tablet-marketshare-the-full-story/

      I also think Apple is better at managing excitement. They will announce it on the 23rd and because it will be available a short time later it will stay in the news cycle until a week or so after release. The buzz from the Surface announcement has worn off for a lot of news outlets.

    Surely it's the iBall, smart contact lenses that will leap from Google Glass.

      Is it wrong that I thought the iBall would be a pants attachment?

      iBall- I love it haha.. made my laugh!

    I just hope it doesn't come to fruition, and see how disappointed everyone will be after months and months of speculation, more so than any other year.

    A friend of my girlfriend's had some Android 7" tablet. She told me it's better than an iPad because it has Flash. I assume she got it free, included with her phone plan or something. It was clunky, tiny and awkward.

    I'm pretty sure that 7" tablets are being bought by people who can't afford a 10" one. Once they all realise how dumb it is, the 7" tablet market will disappear. I agree with everything Jobs said above.

      Just on the 7" form factor defence - I originally thought it was a bit of an odd size, kind of in the middle of phone/tablet sizes and thought it felt like a marketing arm of a company going "Hey look, there's a gap right there, lets fill it".

      However, since seeing the Nexus 7 and subsequently buying it, I love the size for portability. Granted, it's used as a consumption device (reading, movies/TV shows, browsing while on wifi or tethered) but it's easy to hold and carry, not to mention less fatiguing.

      Disclosure: Had a first gen iPad, iPhone 3GS/4/5, MacBook and iMac, and a home built PC.

        Sold my Nexus 7 after a few weeks. Found that I could work the phone with one hand, a 10" tablet with two... The nexus was a two hander, and I gravitated back to an iPad.

        Be interested in seeing larger tablets, although I imagine R&D have already looked at weight and balance issues.

        It's easy to see why Apple have gone the 7" route, and thats to compete with Samsung's 7" offerings as well as the Nexus 7.

        For the first time its Apple is the one playing catch up, not Android.

          haha, yeah, I don't think Samsung's 7" inchers have anything to do with it.

          Hands up who's heard of the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire? Okay now hands up who knew Samsung had a 7" tablet?

          Hmm.

            *hands up...
            I considered the Samsung 7" before I remembered the Nexus7 was coming out. Needless to say I had to venture the way of ASUS. The Nexus 7 is great.

      Apple fan much? Don't try to disguise yourself, we can see through that.

      I for one own a Nexus 7 and think it's a great little tablet. It's the perfect portable size, it's lightweight and can be held easily in one hand. There's nothing clunky or awkward about it at all (in fact, the words "clunky" and "awkward" and usually used to describe larger devices, not smaller ones). Whatever 7 inch tablet you tried, it wasn't the N7.

      Initially I wasn't interested in a 7 inch form factor, I too thought they were too small. That is until I tried out a Nexus 7. I only needed about 5 minutes with it to decide that I wanted one of my own.

      I can afford a 10" tablet. I actually have a 10" tablet, the first iPad. It sits there and gathers dust as I use my nexus 7. Its going to gather even more dust now that it does not support the latest iOS and makes a worthless testing device.

      Its not a question of cost. I bought a nexus 7 because it is portable, up to date, and has access to Google services that will most likely never make its way to iOS. Its the size of a book, and just the right size to read and watch anything, as well as carry around in my hand all day,

      What? I can afford a 10" tablet. I have an iPad 2 which I used for about a month, stopped using, and gave to my partner. I bought a nexus 7 a few months back and use it daily. Its small, its light, it is much more enjoyable to watch movies/youtube on than my phone and its super light.

      I think its great.

      Her Android tablet probably was cheap, clunky and awkward. It was likely not designed properly to be used at that size and resolution. If those same manufacturers made a 10 inch tablet, it would suck just as much.

      "Once they all realise how dumb it is, the 7" tablet market will disappear." Yes. Of course. The success of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are in our imaginations. Just like people who say 'oh the iPad is stupid, once people realise that it'll disappear'. Still waiting.

      Hey! Let's judge all products on bad anecdotal evidence, then put people down for choosing them! Fun!

      Last edited 17/10/12 3:01 pm

      I find using tablets a pleasure.
      I have had an iPad since the day they were sold in Australia, however I do not take an iPad with me wherever I go, due to their large size.
      I just bought a nexus 7, I appreciate its size, it fits in the inside pocket of my suit jacket (I tend to wear a suit on most days).
      I would prefer a similar sized hardware running iOS as it would be easier to keep my info in sync and I would not need to pay again for apps.

    “We’ve got a little more to show you…” - Maybe the emphasis is on the "more" part of it, and they're going to announce a 15.6" tablet. Oh yeah, that'd catch the tech blog world off guard.

    Maybe it is going to be an all around Mini event.

    Mini Retina Macbooks (13" and a surprise 11 inch model that is cheaper than the 11" air)
    New Mac Mini
    iPad Mini
    Mini Steve Jobs clone

      My first thought was Mini-Me drawing the picture for Scott: in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me: http://thumbs.anyclip.com/t7tyLURnt/tmb_3970_480.jpg

      But Mini-Me would be a Mini Steve Jobs and Scott would be Google.

    If 7 inches is too small to accurately tap icons and perform gestures that would make the iPhone or any touch screen phone useless. Yet people can seamlessly use these too. The argument against the useability of a 7 inch device is useless itself

      He was saying that a device that size would probably have to use phone style apps rather than tablet style apps. There is a difference between the appearance of an iPhone app and an iPad app (well designed ones anyway).

    "Apple almost never directly competes with Google. As we saw from the slightly underspecced iPhone 4S when it was launched, Apple doesn’t care what’s coming out from other players now or in the next 12 months, it’s just focussed on putting out gadgets, products and services for customers likely to buy an Apple product. Devices that meet the Apple checklist of what something can or can’t be."

    That's right, because it sues the crap out of others at every turn. That's its definition of competition.

      The definition of competition is a company that sues another company? Huh, who knew?

    It's not a iPad mini, they will release a brand new product with name like iBook. It will be a Apple eReader product and people will love it. I'll put a fiver on it :-p

      The iBook already exists! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBook

        So Apple already owns the name, doesn't take much to bring a name back to life and start using it again.

    I'm going to laugh so hard if after all these months of rumours and speculation that the iPad mini isn't announced at all.

    I've never believed it's actually happening, which seems to be the opposite line of thinking of most people who seem 100% convinced about it. If they do end up announcing it, I guess the joke will be on me, but if they don't, I'm going to point and laugh at all the disappointed Apple fans.

    could it just be a refresh of the iPad with a new dock connector? i know it seems soon but they may just want to round there sku's and simplify cables for users.

    Of course it will be the iPad mini. How else are Apple going to claim the invented the 7inch form factor first and sue everyone else? :P

      oh, that sort of joke just stays so fresh and new, labrys. Not getting old in the slightest.

        It will start getting old when Apple stop behaving like dickheads.
        But it's ok olearymo you can go back to worshipping apple. It's a free world after all. And who am I to judge someone's blind adoration of a company?

          I'm struggling to work out where you get the idea I worship Apple. Did I hurt your feelings?

    Laptop and Desktop refresh cycles are due.... Retina Display upgrades all around?? Will be interesting especially now that MS have released pricing and pre-orders for the Surface RT.

    does anyone use a 7" tablet for reading comics? the ipad is pretty much perfect fore reading comics, and I can't imaging enjoying it as much on a 7" screen. I have a 1st gen ipad which I'm looking to replace - I'm open to replacing with a not apple product, but comics are a huge part of what I use it for.

    It won't be a 7" tablet, it'll be a 7.53" table or something like that. Then Apple will claim they're not copying because 7" is still too small, so they went with a non-conventional and "better" 7.53" screen. Yawn!

    I have not heard any reports of covert cryptic references to the iPad Mini in any iOS SDK. It seems like before every other major Apple product release someone finds evidence to support the speculation in some obscure code in the SDK. This sort of code seems to be inserted to enable developers of multi-platform software to check the capabilities of the device. You would think that the size of the display might be a pretty important piece of information for an initialising process to be able to query the OS for. You also might think that consistently with Apple's overally approach of encouraging apps that are meticulously designed for the hardware that they run on the new iPad mini would necessitate a new class of app that has more information than will fit on an iPhone/iPod screen but not quite as much as fits on an iPad. The absence of any developer buzz about the iPad mini supports Luke's theory.

    "To go against Steve’s wishes and release the iPad mini would signal a huge departure from the business plan the co-founder prepared for the company before his demise. "

    We don't know what the plan he left behind was. Also, he is the same man who didn't want apps on the iPhone according to his book. He wasn't immune to being wrong or doing 180's, in fact the biography makes it sound as if he did it all the time.

    Might be worth noting the rumoured 7.85" display is closer to 8" than it is to 7". Not a huge difference to some, but I think it makes some difference.

    Could this iPad Mini be a device that is eventually used with an Apple TV to create a sort-of Gaming console? This of course assumes that Apple will eventually release an ATV SDK out to developers. A 10" tablet too big, 4" iphones too small.

    Just a thought...

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