Friday, October 12, 2012

Just What is the iPad Mini, and is it Real? Could it be the Apple TV?

At this point in time, the ether is abuzz with rumors of the imminent iPad Mini launch. Of course, we should all recognize that the collective track record for Apple prognostications stinks. Apple rumors come and go and never resemble the real world. However, this latest rumor feels like something is missing. If there is an iPad mini will it just be a small screen iPad, or will it be something more?
The problem is that an iPad mini doesn't fit with existing products. The new iPod touch arrives at a price point of $299 with a four-inch retina display. The iPad 2 is available for $399 and the 'new' iPad starts at $499. I suspect next March will see the new iPad at $399 and a newer iPad at $499. I just don't see the sense of squeezing in another price point for a seven inch model at $349.

OK, Apple has done this before. Back when Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985 the company began to pump out a dizzying array of Mac Performas, LC's, and more. It seemed that the company had defined innovation as the introduction of new hardware -- the same features on varying form factors, chipsets, and displays. If there is a new iPad Mini and its an iPad with a new screen size, I will wonder if we've simply entered this era once again.

I do understand the interest in the seven-inch form factor. I just wonder if it is sufficiently different from the interest in four-inch screens and nine point seven inches. And is there sufficient price difference to make it appealing as a product in its own right?

From an innovation perspective, a new form factor makes sense if it is intended for a new purpose. For example, another persistent Apple rumor has been that this will be the year of the Apple TV. What if this is a television-centric device? For example, it might work with Apple TV to provide an entertainment management experience for viewing content on your big screen. It could bring face-time to the front and center to enable sharing of the living room experience among households. Friends could chat about the latest football game or critique live performances of American Idol.

My musings are not specifically that a new iPad mini will be about television.  Rather that I predict (hope) that, if it exists, the new iPad mini will be something other than a small screen size iPad. I have no problem if it runs IOS and accesses the Apple App store. I just hope it also does something else. No doubt the market will snap up anything Apple in the short term. But longer term, if it is only a small iPad, I hope it's also not the shape of things to come at Apple.


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