The iPad mini -- size matters

My favorite review of the iPad mini is the one in The Guardian. Most of the reviews have been positive, and most like the fact that the iPad mini gives a full iPad experience in a smaller, thinner, and lighter device. But then comes the caveat: it's too expensive. What was Apple thinking? they say. The article by Charles Arthur points out that this exact criticism was leveled at Apple back in 2004. Its iPod, introduced in 2001, was a huge hit, despite all those commentators who said that the MP3 player market was already saturated. But the iPod was so much better it quickly dominated the market.

Then came Apple's supposed misstep: in 2004 they  introduced the iPod mini. It had less memory that the original iPod introduced three years earlier. And despite having a small amount of memory, the diminutive iPod was priced at $249, only $50 lower than the regular iPod. The criticism was harsh: too expensive, not enough memory. What was the result? The iPod mini was a huge hit. Size matters. People went for small even though it had less memory and was expensive. It became the bestselling iPod. Then Apple came out with the iPod nano in 2005 -- which was even smaller. And it, in turn, became Apple's bestselling iPod -- helping Apple to a record billion dollar profit in 2005.

What's the lesson in this? User experience. Apple always always focuses on user experience. Apple realized that the appeal of portable MP3 players was just that -- their portability. Make it even more portable, and it will be even more appealing.

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So it's no surprise that the paramount feature in the iPad mini is that it's thin and light. Many people use tablets primarily because they're portable. So why not make it even more portable? To the naysayers, I say: just watch what happens. I'm guessing that consumers will love the greater portability of the iPad mini.

It's actually thinner and lighter than the most popular 7-inch tablets: the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD. And because it has a significantly larger screen than these 7-inch tablets, you'd think that the overall form factor would be larger. Not true, Arthur points out. That's because Apple has used a narrower bezel, or border, on the sides of the device. It's actually only half an inch wider than the Nexus 7, yet, as Phil Schiller pointed out, it has  35% larger display area. And because part of the Nexus display is taken up with navigation tools, the mini actually has 49% more web surfing area in portrait mode, and 67% more in landscape mode.

Size matters. Yes, the iPad mini is more expensive than these $200 tablets. But it's also thinner and lighter, and only a tad wider -- yet has a much more functional display. I think that as people see the iPad mini and have the opportunity to handle it a bit, they'll get it. They'll understand what makes it so different than what has come before. Some of the reviews say that you can't really appreciate how different it is from the previous iPads until you get a chance to handle one.

In his review, Arthur concludes that this is a five-star device. He goes into considerable detail about the features, and notes the weaknesses as well as the strengths. Overall, he concludes that it will be a big seller, and even that it may outsell the regular iPad in this quarter. I think that's quite possible. Size matters.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.