In Q4 2010, just a few months before he finally succumbed to the complications of pancreatic cancer, then-Apple-CEO Steve Jobs tried to squash the idea of 'a cheap 7-inch version of the iPad' by making this bold statement at the company's Earnings Conference Call,
"The reason we [will NOT] make a 7-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit that price point, it's because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software driven company we think about the software strategies first."
An artist's rendition of the iPad Mini; Bigger than iPhone, smaller than an iPad
He added, "We know developers aren't going to deal well with these different sizes and they have to change their software every time the screen size changes. When we make decisions on 7-inch tablets it's not about cost, it's about the value of the product when you factor in the software.
You see what I'm getting at? So we're all about making the best products at aggressive prices and that's what we do, and that's what we will do with the iPad and iPod."
A Worthy Competitor, A Lucrative Market
Software strategy may have been a valid reason for not pursuing the project then but times have changed much since Steve Jobs left us.
For one, the legendary CEO didn't live to see Amazon Kindle Fire's immense success in the US, which makes it a game changer in its own right. When he was still around, his company's iPad reigned supreme; having no strong rivals in the tablet market. Jobs died on October 5, 2011 and Kindle Fire started shipping in the said territory on November 15, 2011.
Since the day it hit store shelves, the ultra-affordable '$199 7-inch tablet running an Android-derivative operating system with a 1 GHz Dual Core processor' has went on to become the best-selling Android slate in the US. In fact, a recent survey disclosed that there are more than 17.4 Million active Kindle Fire users in that country alone!
Thanks to Kindle Fire, more and more users are starting to go Android in the United States and sales of digital content from Amazon is now growing faster than even Apple's; A great reward for Amazon's gamble to sell Kindle Fire almost - if not totally - at a loss.
But should Kindle Fire's success bother Apple? Well, looking at that graph, I'd say 'Yes!' On the right side, you will see that Apple is experiencing a steep decline in the number of users using the iPad from 2011 to 2012 while the number of Android tablet owners doubled during the same period with Kindle Fire as the fastest-moving product. This only means that the said tablet is becoming more successful at the expense of Apple's slate.
And we're not the only one noticing this development. Seeing that there's indeed a large, lucrative market for cheap tablets, Google announced Nexus 7 - a $199 tablet made by Asus running the latest version of the Android operating system called Jelly Bean - just a few days ago. This slate will start shipping in the US sometime next month and from the looks of it, it will be a hit.
Should Apple go for an iPad Mini? In my opinion, the company has no choice. I mean, we have to look at the numbers and we have to make projections. Sooner or later, these cheap tablets will eat into iPad sales and if Apple won't do anything to entice these customers back; if they'll let these ultra-affordable slates run berserk without any real competition, peeps at Cupertino might wake-up one day realizing that they've lost the crown to Google or to some other cheap tablet manufacturer. Apple is a giant, one of the biggest electronics companies in the world -- but these days, you'll never know.
Yes, I think iPad Mini will cannibalize on the sales of iPad and perhaps even iPhone. But I think that's better than seeing another company bring those products down.
So TP Friends, I ask you, "Do you like the iPad Mini idea? Do you think Apple should pursue it?"