The Apple rumour mill never shuts the hell up, and we’re now getting an increasingly loud wail of nonsense about the iPad. The current thinking by those who probably aren’t doing a great deal of thinking: a new new iPad this autumn. Yup, the two-iPads-in-one-year argument has been resurrected like a deranged zombie, to stumble about until someone puts it out of its misery around the end of October, only to bring the poor bastard back to life again next spring.
But there’s a far more year-round resistant super-zombie out there: the 7-inch iPad rumour. This one just won’t die, and now Mike Elgan over at Cult of Mac’s explained why Apple will ship this device. Needless to say, I don’t agree with him.
First, Elgan talks an awful lot about Samsung:
Samsung is going all-out to promote the Galaxy Note as the company’s new iPhone killer.
With largely derided adverts that don’t seem to have propelled its device in front of Apple’s. It’s selling, and a portion of the tech press has fallen for it, but the general public appears largely indifferent.
Elgan’s argument then essentially says three things: Samsung’s seducing people because of the Note’s massive screen (the same massive screen, note, that makes it less portable than less mental smartphones); Samsung’s making money, like Apple (albeit way less); and the Note’s an in-between device—a (apologies for using this word on Revert to Saved, but I didn’t make it up) ‘phablet’.
All of this combines to make Elgan think Apple needs to swoop in, grab and close off the space the Note sort-of occupies—the bit between a smartphone and a proper tablet. He also mentions Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which was recently revealed to have fallen off a cliff sales-wise, so I’m not sure where that fits into the ‘Apple really must sell an iPad mini’ argument, but there you go.
I don’t deny that some people want choice—or at least think they want choice—and might be drawn to a smaller iPad. However, more choice also results in buyer’s doubt. When lots of choice exists, people avoid buying something, in case they buy the wrong thing. Right now, you have clear separation: wee smartphone or large tablet. They each have very defined use cases and also happen to complement each other. Now stick an iPad mini in the mix. Who’s it for? How will it affect sales of iPads? Will people actually buy neither because they’re afraid of buying the wrong model? Will it simply confuse the market? Will people argue Apple’s panicking, and firing out a sub-optimal unit, just to defend some turf that’s being occupied with all the force of a single soldier armed with a piece of four-day-old cheese?
Apple has in the past started in the premium space and gradually worked its way towards lower markets. People cite the iPod and argue that because Apple released an iPod mini, and iPad mini must be on the cards. But Apple’s strategy for accessing the lower end of the market appears to now rest on selling previous models for lower prices. In smartphones, the iPhone 3GS remains on sale (and is surprisingly popular); in tablets, the iPad 2 has stuck around for a year, at a price point that challenges existing 7-inch tablets. Apple could easily lop off $50 from its price-tag too, if it felt the urge, wrecking the entire market for everyone else, without releasing any new model. Also, retaining the 10-inch form factor across the iPad line means you don’t end up with huge UX problems.
I don’t doubt Apple has 7-inch iPads in its labs. But then I also don’t doubt Apple has iPads boasting displays of 8-inches, 9-inches, 11-inches, and more. It always makes and tests a lot of different models before one gets to market, and testing remains ongoing. But I do doubt Apple is planning to unleash an iPad mini any time soon; and if it did, that would certainly be a marked change in strategy and thinking from Cupertino—one that’s largely unnecessary.