By Jim Karpen on Mon, 10/22/2012
Count me among the Apple fanboys who can't wait to hear what Apple will announce tomorrow. Most of the rumors center around a purported iPad mini with a 7.85-inch screen. Bloomberg reported earlier today that a focus of the event tomorrow will be the use of the iPad mini in education. So here's my prediction: assuming that Apple does indeed introduce an iPad mini tomorrow, I think it will outsell the current iPad in this quarter, and possibly also end up being the more popular model in the long run. Here's why: I have both an iPad 2 and a Google Nexus 7 tablet, which has a 7-inch screen. My iPad is superior, but I have to admit that it always feels a bit clunky compared to the Nexus 7. The iPad mini is going to be thin and light, and smaller and more portable. This is important. I take my 9.7-inch iPad with me everywhere I go, but it's not always convenient. Often I'm tempted to take my Nexus 7 instead, but I don't because it's unable to connect to the cellular data network. (For home use, though, or in a hotel room, I much prefer my full-sized iPad.)
An iPad mini will be a happy medium. It will have, I hope, connectivity to the cellular data network, plus all the things I love about my iPad, but will be much more portable. I expect it to have the same in-cell technology and Lightning connector as the iPhone 5, so that it can be significantly thinner and lighter than the current iPad. And possibly also an IGZO display, which will mean that the battery can be smaller.
Thin, light, and portable: these are the top selling points in my mind.
I believe there's pent-up demand for a smaller iPad -- people like myself who will appreciate the greater portability. In addition, in Asia it appears that 7-inch tablets are the preferred size. And smaller tablets will work well in schools.
The lower price point is also an appeal. Not only will the portability make this a preferred device among many purchasers, but also the price will bring in a lot of people who can't afford the larger, more expensive iPad. And the price will also make it much more likely that schools will buy it. So I predict that the iPad mini will be a big seller -- if Apple can make enough of them.
Speaking of thin and light, it's also possible that tomorrow Apple will introduce a new version of the iPad with retina display. No doubt it will also be thinner and lighter. Apple has really been pushing the envelope in regard to using start-of-the-art technologies. It's resulted in constrained supplies as factories struggle to make enough defect-free displays that have the new in-cell technology. And this is causing Apple to lose some money, as it's rumored that they're helping to cover the costs of the unusable production. The supply constraints are also leading to lower numbers of units sold.
But for Apple, the only thing that matters -- ever -- is the user experience. And thin and light devices are simply more portable and more user-friendly.