In case you have been hiding under a rock for the last few hours you probably have heard that Apple has announced a (insert superfluous adjectives) iPad Mini with a 7.9” screen. While Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, stated that this new device is “not just a smaller iPad” I find it hard to think of a single feature that does not fit that bill. This makes me wonder how this all fits in with Steve Jobs and his famous statements on why Apple will never make 7” tablets while it derided the 7” Android and upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook tablets. Thanks to The Register we have a transcript from the financial results conference call from October 2010. Here is what Jobs had to say:
Almost all [Android-based tablets] use 7-inch screens as opposed to iPads near 10-inch screen. Let’s start there.
One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70 per cent of the benefits of the 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a 7-inch screen is only 45 per cent as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right. Just 45 per cent as large.
If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on a 7-inch tablet are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad’s display. The size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps, in our opinion.
While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size.
Apple has done extensive user testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them. This one of the key reasons, we think, the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.
Or better yet:
The reason that we wouldn’t make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a price point. It’s because we don’t think you can make a great tablet with a 7-inch screen. We think it’s too small to express the software that people want to put on these things. And we think – as a software driven company – we think about the software strategies first.
While Apple is famous for their reality distortion field I am loving how iOS lovers have backpedalled since the iPad Mini rumors started creeping up. Apple is essentially admitting to the world that they were wrong and there is actually a market for 7” devices. Hell Apple is going to make a killing selling millions of their iPad Mini’s to their loyal fan base. This is not the first time Apple has backpedalled on their “extensive user testing” and I doubt it will be the last. Remember how the 3.5” iPhone screen was the largest size Apple would produce for cell phones because any larger and it would require 2 hands? Guess they were working on the iPhone 5’s 4” screen when they said that.
While many of you may be wondering what the iPad Mini means for RIM I don’t think it is a huge market changer. Apple essentially FOLLOWED the market to 7” devices instead of leading with their iPad Mini. What the iPad Mini has really done is raise the bar for build quality and for a $329 price point. Hopefully RIM comes packing with some of their own legendary engineering in BlackBerry 10.
PS: Thanks Ronen for inspiring this post along with “you know who” and his sanctimonious defense of iPad’s being better because Steve Jobs said Apple would never make a 7” tablet…
PPS: Before some of you start to defend how the iPad Mini’s 7.9″ is different than 7″ lets just try not to split hairs 🙂