UPDATE: I’ve since recanted on the idea of an iPad Mini
But I’m leaving the articles up as a record and historical curiosity.
Much has been made recently about Apple making a 7 inch version of it’s popular iPad as reported by iLounge. But does it make sense for Apple to introduce a smaller version of the iPad? I argue that it does. Here’s why.
The iOS Boom
Looking at the past 4 years of Apple’s revenue it’s clear that the iPhone/iPod Touch have become a major driver in Apple’s financial health. At last figure Apple was making 40% of it’s money from the iPhone/iPod Touch, and that was before the iPad was on sale. A cursory glance at the revenue breakdown chart indicates that Apple has a major hit on it’s hand with the iPad, and that before the holiday season hits
Apple had moved into the iOS device business in a big way offering a mobile phone, a pocketable computer, and now a slate all running iOS. At the 2010 WWDC Jobs said Apple was on track to sell it’s 100 millionth iOS device within a month. iOS devices have given Apple a market penetration they could have only dreamed off in it’s traditional line of Mac OS X computers. (Apple’s last quarterly results had Apple selling 3.47 millions OS X devices vs 11.67 million iPhones/iPads)(iPod Touches where included in the iPod numbers and thus not broken out)
The Refinement of the iOS Platform
Current rumors are that the iPod Touch will be getting the iPhone 4 treatment of Retina Display, A4 processor, and front and rear facing cameras. The iPod Touch will also probably get a re-design to incorporate these features and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a flat double glass slate ala the iPhone 4.
The iPad will be getting iOS 4 sometime this fall. This will bring multi-tasking, unified inbox and folders and probably a few iPad only features such as wireless printing (most likely using Apple’s Bonjour technology) The next generation of the iPad will probably get a bumped processor speed (still ARM based), a slight bump in display pixels (Retina Display is just too cost prohibitive in a 9.7″ screen size) and front and back facing cameras.
This updates would bring the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad into alignment feature wise providing a solid and consistent platform for developers to target. It would also mean that iPhones/iPod Touches/iPads would be updated simultaneously instead of the current situation of having both iOS 4 and iPhone OS 3.2.1.
The Future of iOS Devices
So the question becomes what can Apple do to grow the iOS platform. iOS 5 will bring in some software features. (Such as expanded multi-tasking ala periodic app pinging which would allow twitter and newsreader apps to check for updates much like Mail does now and improved notifications system)
Diversifying the Line
I argue that much like the Mac and the iPod before it Apple will diversify the iOS product line in order to cater to different use cases, all the while maintaining a consistent and easy to follow pricing and use case structure. A quick glance at the iPhone Apple Store App show the restraint Apple has with it’s product line, boiling down it’s entire business to 4 classes of products. (Andy Ihnatko described it as Apple telling a story with each product being a clearly defined role)
The Mac and iPod line have some further subcategories.
Looking at the mac line line it’s easy to tell the differences and use cases for each product. Once the choice of desktop vs. laptop is made it’s easy for consumers to find the computer that closest fits their personal use case.
The same is true of the iPod line.
Let’s break out the iOS product line (Odd how the iPod Touch straddles both iPod and iOS device lines. Much hunch is that’s simply because the iOS product family is still too small. I wouldn’t’ be surprised to see Apple to make a more aggressive move to put the iPod Touch into the IOS family in it’s marketing and descriptions)
In the next article I’ll look at what Apple has planned for the iPad Mini and what the probable specs would be.