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Opinion: Steve Jobs was wrong about the iPad Mini

7-inch wonder the right device at the right time

Opinion: Steve Jobs was wrong about the iPad Mini
Steve Jobs once described 7-inch tablets as "tweeners".

He reckoned they were "too big to compete with the smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad," and went on to say that developers "wouldn't deal too well" with the product fragmentation and having to resize their software to various display sizes.

And yet, one year on from Jobs' death, all you can hear right now is the grinding of reverse gears over in Cupertino as Apple prepares to unleash its Pad Mini range.

If we assume the catalogue of rumours are true, why the change of heart?

Number one? Money. Far from being "dead on arrival", the 7-inch tablet format has proven to be a hugely lucrative hardware sector.

Public vote

Whatever Jobs may have thought about this "orphan" product and the poor user experience from the lack of screen real estate, it's obvious that the buying public disagrees.

The Cook-lead Apple has presumably had enough of casting an envious eye at this booming market and wants a piece of the action.

Fair enough, too. Jobs' assertion that the 7-inch format would sit in some kind of tablet no-man's land always seemed like a flawed one - particularly once the Retina screen became part of Apple's product DNA.

Not only does the size more readily lend itself to being a reading device, a 7.85-inch iPad Mini is still comfortably large enough to serve as a highly desirable video content player, internet browser and gaming system - not to mention all the myriad other features that we take for granted.

And the assertion that developers would baulk at the fragmentation caused by another device has already been rigorously tested in recent years.

Adapt or die

Ask any game developer about the fun involved in optimising their games to 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, various iPod touch iterations, along with three generations of iPad, and you'll find that most have become pretty battle hardened to the process now.

It's not as easy as it used to be, but it's the reality and you adapt.

Another iOS product to incorporate into the family tree is going to be met with a few weary shrugs, but little more than that. Whatever gripes that may emerge, this isn't the PC we're dealing with here.

Looking at it from an altogether more positive point of view, the arrival of the iPad Mini presents another opportunity - more customers to sell to, with (presumably) relatively little effort required to optimise games for the system.

Whether a significant number of consumers will adopt an iPad Mini as their tablet gaming device of choice depends on a number of factors: price, performance, and preference.

Reassuringly expensive

Apple's hardly renowned for driving down price, and, indeed, if you take the entry level prices of the 5th gen iPod touch and the iPad and pick a mid-point, then you'll end up almost exactly where the iPad Mini will reside.

Expensive? Yes - but when has that ever stopped Apple devices flying off the shelves.

Knowing Apple, the performance will provide a perfectly adequate platform for demanding games - indeed, if it features the new A6 chip, it could even beat the third generation iPad.

As for preference, like it or not, some people will always opt for the larger 10-inch tablet format, while others will swear blind that 7.85-inch is the way to go. You can't please everyone.

On a personal level, it serves absolutely no purpose for my needs, but an awful lot of people said the same about the original iPad and look where that ended up.

Even Jobs got it wrong sometimes

In some respects, Apple leaves itself open to plenty of barracking if Jobs' vision is dispensed with so ruthlessly, but that said, even Jobs wasn't right about everything all the time. Remember Ping? MobileMe?

The fact is, the market has moved on, and there's no compelling reason why Apple shouldn't release an iPad Mini - especially given the proven demand for this "tweener" format.

For once, Apple is following rather than leading, but in this case it's right to play catch-up. Anything else would be been a missed opportunity.

Whether this cannibalises the sales of its other products is another matter, but in the short-term at least, the iPad Mini will be chalked off as another win.
For an alternative view on the potential impact of Apple's iPad Mini, check out editor Keith Andrew's take, published back in August.

There's no such thing as 'not enough time' in Kristan's world. Despite the former Eurogamer editor claiming the world record for the most number of game reviews written before going insane, he manages to continue to squeeze in parallel obsessions with obscure bands, Norwich City FC, and moody episodic TV shows. He might even read a book if threatened by his girlfriend.

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Keith Andrew
I'd agree with the 'damaging the brand' angle, tbh. Though I plan on getting a Mini as things stand, I still think it's a bad move longterm.
Jonathan Morris Operations Editor
As Amazon admits it is selling its devices at cost, and Google's Nexus 7 is currently the best selling tablet at Carphone Warehouse (with an increase from 16GB to 32GB at no extra cost rumoured to be on the horizon), it's clear that we're seeing a move to selling tablets like printers.

Apple makes more than most on content purchased via iTunes, so it could easily drop its prices to cost, or even below, if it ensured everyone buys an iDevice over a rival product from Amazon, Nook or Google.

The problem is Apple isn't a brand that devalues its products. If it does sell the new iPad mini for a knockdown price, it runs the risk of doing a lot of harm to its whole image – unless it deliberately cripples the features to ensure the standard iPad remains worthy of a premium. It also begins to confuse the pricing between the iPad and iPod touch.

With plenty of choice of sub-£200 tablets with specifications previously commanding top prices, such as the Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD and Nexus 7, it all comes down to whether Apple can risk having people buying signing up and using another app/game/TV/video/music store instead. Anyone buying a Nexus 7 is more likely to consider an Android smartphone, for example.