Tech commentators: why you might want to buy an "iPad mini"

The rumors of a 7.85-inch "iPad mini" just keep circulating, with one market analyst predicting that Apple would sell as many as 6 million during the holiday season this year. What's the appeal? Obviously, part of the reason there's so much buzz is just because everything Apple does generates buzz. They come out with revolutionary, sexy products. But beyond the buzz-factor, why would a 7.85-inch sell? One reason is price. Most expect that it would sell in the range of $200-300. The smaller size itself would also appeal to some buyers. Ben Bajarin of Tech Opinions points out that 7-inch tablets fit into purses and coat pockets and other places more easily. He sees the greater portability fitting in well with what he feels will be the primary focus of the device: entertainment. He says the mini would be a good companion device for someone who has a notebook computer, whereas he sees the 10-inch iPad as increasingly replacing the notebook computer.

Bajarin says that it's unlikely that consumers would buy both sizes of iPad, but another tech analyst noted that some enthusiasts will likely choose to own both, and will use them for different purposes. Having two different iPads is more feasible with the availability of iCloud, because the content of the two devices would automatically be kept in sync. I'm one of those iPad enthusiasts, and I could easily see myself owning both. I always have my iPad with me wherever I go, and there are times when a smaller, lighter device would be a convenience.

One argument that Steve Jobs himself used against 7-inch tablets is that the screen space is just too small: 45% as large as the iPad's. But popular Daring Fireball columnist John Gruber points out that the supposed iPad mini will have a 7.85-inch screen, such that the screen space will be 66% the size of an iPad's. It could run the same apps as the current iPad, and while they would appear smaller, he calculates the "tap targets" would be the same size as those of the iPhone. He's confident that Apple has it all figured out and that the user experience will be satisfactory.

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Some commentators are saying that the smaller iPad would also be ideal for the education market. The current iPad models are already making huge inroads in education, with many school technology directors saying that there will be more iPads than desktop computers in schools within the next 5 years. The smaller iPads will be more kid-friendly, and the cheaper price will make them more appealing to school budgets. Already there are some excellent learning resources for the iPad, and the iPad mini will greatly lower the cost of entry for schools that want to make the jump.

Interestingly, Josh Smith says that a $299 iPad mini would complete Apple's mobile product line. He shows that they've got a product at every other price point except for $299.

The Verge says that an iPad mini is "inevitable." Again, the smaller size is seen as an advantage on plane flights, on the subway, in bed, etc. And again, the bet is that the focus will be on consumption of media and "short use scenarios."

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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.