With the iPhone 5 we chanced our arm with a predictions article on here and got most of it right. So let’s try it again with the upcoming small format iPad that is rumoured to be released in time for this year’s holiday season and which is said to be in mass production already in China with Pegatron and Foxconn in order to create a huge inventory for what will obviously be a very popular device. Before we start it is worth pointing out that everything here is just guesswork and may well be completely wrong.
Firstly why are Apple doing this when Steve Jobs famously said that small tablets are only any use for using on the toilet? The first reason is that small (around 7 inch) tablets are a lot different to large (10 inch tablets). They are used in a different way by different people to do different things. This is because they are a whole lot more portable and because they can be held on one hand whilst being used by the other, whereas large tablets need to be rested on a surface in order to be used. The second reason is that the market has changed radically with small tablets becoming incredibly popular, most notably the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Fire. This has to a large degree forced Apple to join in or to be left behind. In fact most analysts think that the 7 inch market will be far bigger than the 10 inch market.
It is looking increasingly as if this new small tablet will be announced on October 17 to be available at retail on November 2. Currently everyone is calling it the iPad Mini but some pundits think that it is could possibly be called the iPad Air, taking the naming convention used by Apple laptop computers.
The hardware specification is very difficult to guess. It looks like Apple will not be able to be so premium in their market positioning this time out because of the existing competition in the sector. They will be forced to a lower price point (maybe starting at $250) by the likes of the Nexus 7. If they are building to a price this means less bells and whistles. So many commentators think that this will essentially be a small screen version of the iPad 2 and as such will not feature the excellent but expensive retina display. In fact rumours are that the displays currently being manufactured for Apple by LG Display and AU Optronic are 7.85 inch with lower resolution than the iPad 3 display. This retina display issue is the area of specification where there is the most speculation.
One idea doing the round is that Apple will go to the 16:9 screen aspect ratio of the new iPhone 5 rather than the 4:3 ratio of the iPad 3, in many ways this makes a lot of sense. Another way Apple will be able to build down to a price will be by providing less memory, so they will possibly start with an 8Gb model, just as the Nexus 7 does. Also the new model will possibly only have one camera and will do without the rear facing one that more expensive tablets feature. And it is almost certainly going to feature the smaller “lightning” connector which debuted on the iPhone 5 and which saves both money and space within the device.
So who will buy this new device and what will they use it for? It seems that it will be far less popular for business use, but far more popular with private buyers. So it makes great sense in education and also in the home, where it is an ideal device for web browsing whilst watching television, something that is becoming massively popular. And of course there are games. This is where the iPad Mini will really shine. The larger display will make it a better gaming device than the iPhone whilst the greater portability and ease of use will make it a better gaming device than the bigger iPad. In other words this could be the most significant announcement of new gaming hardware this year.
By Bruce Everiss – CMO