Steve Jobs famously said that seven-inch tablets would be dead on arrival because they were too big to compete with smartphones and too small to compete with the iPad. That was two years ago. With CEO Tim Cook running Apple now, a smaller iPad could actually see the light of day.
Described by many as a visionary, Jobs had the tendency to flip-flop on ideas he initially thought were "sh*t." This is what he once called seven-inch tablets:
"7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad."
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While it's not the first time we've heard rumors of an "iPad mini", three established publications are fueling the mythical device's return to the news.
The Whispers Come Blowing By
The first to kick up new sand was Bloomberg. Its July 4 report claimed that two sources from within Apple told it that a smaller iPad with a screen between seven and eight inches will debut as early as October. The report also says the display won't have the Retina display that the new iPad sports.
Not to be left out of the scoop, The Wall Street Journal followed up with its own report earlier this morning stating that Apple's Asian component suppliers were ramping up parts for mass production in September.
Finally, the well-informed John Gruber of Daring Fireball says that Apple will likely cut the smaller iPad's display from the same ones that the iPhone 3GS has been made from. Gruber argues that because Apple "has been producing at scale [the displays] ever since the original iPhone five years ago" it can "produce [them] efficiently and in enormous quantities."
As per old rumors, it's believed that the smaller iPad will carry a display with a 1024x768 resolution (same as the iPad and iPad 2).
The Timing Is Right
Rumors for a 7.85-inch iPad come a week after Google unveiled its Nexus 7 tablet, a seven-inch tablet built by Asus. Smaller than the 9.7-inch iPad, the Nexus 7 has received glowing reviews for its build quality, Android 4.1 Jellybean operating system and "low" $200 price.
The timing couldn't be better for Apple to release a smaller iPad. Take the recent
report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners that states that iPad 2 sales actually make up 41 percent of all iPad sales (that's including the new iPad) and it all makes sense.
The cheaper-iPad 2 is still selling like crazy. Why? Because it's only $400. If Apple were to release an iPad mini, it'd probably be able to sell it for between $300 and $400, lowering the entry barrier. and making it that much more attractive than a Nexus 7. It wouldn't be hard for Apple to make a smaller iPad now, either because it'd essentially just be an shrunken iPad 2.
It'd also be brilliant for developers. There are already hundreds of thousands of apps that are built with a 1024x768 resolution from the iPad and iPad 2. All of those apps would work perfectly on the iPad "mini." Additionally, because iPhone apps can be scaled 2X up for the iPad, those apps would also work out of the box. Even better is that because the screen of the iPad mini would be smaller, iPhone apps might look sharper and less pixelated.
Apple's no stranger to shrinking a successful product. All one needs to do is look at how it shrank the iPod Classic to the iPod Nano, 15-inch MacBook Pro (15-inch) to 13-inch MacBook Pro or even the 13-inch MacBook Air to the 11-inch MacBook Air and an iPad Mini only feels like a matter of time before it happens.