iPad Mini, you complete me.

iPad MiniPhoto Credit: Cult of Mac

Every time Apple launches a new product, the rumor mill starts speculating when the company will launch a “mini” version. It happened with the original iPhone and even after five years, there is no sign of a smaller version. They did it with the MacBook Air and we saw an 11-inch version a few years later. Even with the iPad selling as fast as they can make them, everyone is still waiting for a smaller form factor.

According to a report from the New York Times, Apple will in fact be announcing a smaller version with a 7.85-inch screen and we can expect it by the end of the year. End of story.

Well not quite… There are two challenges that a 7-inch screen faces on being successful and those are differentiation and app development.

First off, I have been skeptic about something smaller than a 10-inch screen; I mean that is why I have a smartphone. In October 2010 Steve Jobs even shot down the idea when he said, “It is meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size.” (A little bit of a fanboy here.)

It has been two years and no other tablet or size for that matter has been able to overtake the 10-inch iPad. Things are changing though and much like the PC industry, various screen sizes will meet different needs for different types of consumers.

I got my hands on the newly announced Google Nexus 7, which Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal called the first challenger to the iPad, and the size makes sense. It feels great in your hands and with the upgraded Google Play store, it is perfect for watching video, checking email, reading magazines and books, etc.

We might be at a point in the evolution of the tablet where smaller sizes make sense for consuming content and a larger screen is reserved for content creation. Will people purchase both?  Some people own a desktop and notebook computer, so we shall see…

The other challenge that Apple faces is fragmentation of screen sizes. More screen resolutions and sizes affect how developers create apps. Apple has a very strong developer community whose applications are one of the reasons for the iPad’s success. Will it be possible to throw a 7-inch iPad into the mix and make it easy for developers to build for that screen?

In the past, Apple has done a great been job at eliminating fragmentation by creating tools that help developers build for new screen resolutions. When the time comes to make an official announcement on a smaller iPad, we will see how Apple handles this. One hint was when Apple announced iOS 6 at their WWDC conference in June where one of the new features of the operating system was an Auto Layout API, which could be a clue to new screen sizes coming…

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July 24th, 2012 at 4:39 pm

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