20 Comments

Summary:

Recent speculation by Apple analysts suggest the company might be working on a 7-inch tablet to stay competitive with the incoming Android crop of similar devices, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Our own Om Malik agrees, and for good reason, but I think otherwise.

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Recent speculation by Apple analysts suggests the company might be working on a 7-inch tablet to stay competitive with the incoming Android crop of devices sporting a similar design, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Our own Om Malik agrees, and for good reason, but I think otherwise.

Cost

While it is true that a 7-inch device would keep production costs down and allow Apple to drop the price of its devices further still, Apple doesn’t have anything to worry about yet in terms of being priced out of the market it essentially created. PC World recently compared prices between the Apple iPad and the Dell Streak, and found that the iPad came out the winner. Likewise, it will probably undercut the Galaxy Tab, though carrier subsidies on contract will make the Tab cheaper initially.

Display

Even leaving aside the surprising fact that Apple is actually the lower-priced brand in this emerging market, there’s little reason to suspect a format change this early in the game. There’s scant evidence that a 7-inch tablet holds more appeal to the consumer. In fact, if Apple can manage to keep the price point they currently offer, but offer a Retina Display in the next iPad iteration in its current 9-inch size, I’d argue it will boast the single best display available for viewing media on a portable device.

PC World agrees, pointing to the display size as one of the primary advantages the iPad has over the Galaxy Tab. The iPad’s screen is so impressive that it made using my iPhone a chore until the introduction of the iPhone 4 and its vastly improved resolution. With video at the forefront of new web tech and TV content consumption increasingly moving to portable devices, the screen will be the site of the market’s key battles.

The Apple Way

Simply put, Apple is defining the emerging tablet space. It won’t feel the heat for a while yet, and even when (and if) it does, I doubt it’ll go the route of mimicking its competitors to stay in the game. That’s not something Apple’s done in the past, and as long as Jobs is in charge, I believe it’ll go the route of innovation before it chooses to passively fall in step with the rest of the industry.

Notebook Replacement, Not a Better PMP

Finally, a 7-inch tablet would make sense if Apple was positioning the iPad to compete with the portable media player market and/or smartphones. It isn’t. The iPad is a netbook/notebook killer, and each iOS iteration proves that point further still; IOS 4.2 brings printing and multitasking to the platform. With that and Bluetooth keyboard support, I’d easily be able to work/play with the iPad on the road. With a 7-inch screen, I’d probably be much less inclined to.

What do you think? Is a smaller iPad a likely part of Apple’s future?

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  1. 10″ is perfect for the ipad. It is just the right size to work on, to watch movies, to surf the net. Why would you take away 30″ of screen space? What Apple needs is to more quickly develop iOS so that the ipad is able to start replacing not just netbooks, but laptops for normal use. There are still too many functions the ipad cannot do, that is where they need to focus.

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  2. The iPad starts to feel really clunky when you try holding it with one hand for longer periods of time. I would gladly sacrifice some battery life for a smaller form factor that is easier to hold with one hand for reading eBooks and making FaceTime calls, but still bigger than my iPhone 4 display. A Kindle-sized iPad would be a very apppealing product for me.

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  3. I agree that a 7-incher doesn’t make sense…for now. 18-24 months down the road? Who knows? It might be desirable simply to feed another market segment. But I agree with Jason; there are plenty of optimization opportunities on the current iPad.

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  4. Well, then call it a bigger iPhone, but it will happen, as the emerging segment of users looking for a convergent device continues to grow.

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  5. The Samsung Tab is a joke. Not a very funny one for anyone dumb enough to buy one. When Google says its too early for an Android tablet you would think people would listen instead of rushing out some half-baked attempt to ride the iPad’s coattails.

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  6. i agree 10 inch screen is perfect for tablet.

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  7. What about using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad?

    Blutooth keyboards are transmitters. Transmit your passwords to anyone in the vicinity with a bluetooth receiver. I would rather have a tablet with a USB port.

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    1. Bluetooth keyboards are transmitters that encrypt all the data they send. When you pair a keyboard with your device you are setting up a pair of secret keys that the two use with each other, so that intercepted transmissions won’t be readable. An attacker would be better off looking over your shoulder…

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  8. Darrel,
    Great article. I feel that there will be a 7″ iPad though. The reason, and I discussed this in my recent Op-Ed on my site, is that the iPad needs to have a version which is more attainable to those that would otherwise choose a Kindle or smaller device. These are uses who don’t want an iPhone but realize that the size of the current iPad really does not lend itself well to mobility.

    I for one choose my iPhone over my iPad in a lot of situations because it is almost too big. I agree with you that it may not be Apple’s way but evidence is out there to suggest they may have something like it -just like we saw the nano.

    Here’s my take:

    http://www.tcgeeks.com/to-have-and-to-hold-why-the-7-ipad-is-imminent/

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    1. “These are uses who don’t want an iPhone but realize that the size of the current iPad really does not lend itself well to mobility.”

      I would like to understand how you define mobility. How does a 1.5lb 9.7″ device “not lend itself well to mobility” but a 7″ device does? From everything I have read, netbooks, laptops, smartphones and iPad all were being described as mobile devices.

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  9. Scaling the Retina display up to full iPad size may be difficult in the near future, so a 7 inch iPad could be an intermediate step (with the Retina display of course)

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  10. Bertil Holmberg Monday, September 20, 2010

    Apple engineers and third party developers already have to support three different screen resolutions. Adding a fourth to the iPad anytime soon is highly unlikely.
    The iPad is such high demand that there are still many markets left to reach and even more to saturate. Introducing new models at this point will just confuse the market.

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