Research In Motion, Samsung and Viewsonic are a few of the manufacturers looking to make a splash with seven-inch tablets. Apple has, in the past, eschewed the idea of a smaller version of its iPad, but here’s why the Cupertino gang should consider making one.


Updated. Research In Motion, Samsung and Viewsonic are all hoping to cash in on the tablet computer market with seven-inch devices. We’re sure to see more similarly sized gadgets int he next several months as a crush of new models come to market.

Update: But where is Apple? That’s what I’ve been wondering ever since Steve Jobs went on a bit of a rant last month during an earnings call, saying a seven-inch tablet “is meaningless” without sandpaper “so that the user can sand down their fingers to about one-quarter of their present size.” I understand Jobs’ point — to a degree — but as I discuss in detail over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), there are some compelling reasons for Apple to consider such a device.

Low production costs and Apple’s strategy of “incremental.” Apple reportedly developed a seven-inch iPad as it built the 9.7-inch version that’s currently on the market, so a smaller iPad would enable Apple to fill in the void between its iPod touch and the current full-sized tablet without spending a fortune in development.

Increasing competition, increasing variety. With dozens of tablets set to launch over the next couple of quarters, users will have a wide variety of sizes, features and operating systems to choose from. A seven-inch iPad could appeal to road warriors and casual users alike, and could crush competing devices before they have a chance to gain any momentum.

More portability. The current iPad is the perfect coffee-table tablet and is ideal for watching video, browsing the web or passing back and forth to play Scrabble. But its size and weight make it cumbersome on the go.

The apps. It’s true that some iPad apps take full advantage of the great real estate, and many enterprise/productivity apps are much easier to use on the bigger screen. But many of the top iPad apps are simply blown-up versions of their iPhone counterparts and would operate fine on a smaller screen

As I said a few weeks ago, there’s little evidence that anyone else can put much of a dent in iPad sales anytime soon. But there could be a substantial market for a tablet that sacrifices some features and functionality in exchange for more portability. Apple would be wise to reconsider the chance to tap it.

Read the full post here.

Image courtesy of Flickr user henribergius.

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  1. There is no reason to subscribe to and go to GigaOM Pro to learn more about your flawed reasoning for a 7″ iPad when it’s possible to understand this situation for free from people like John Gruber, Steve Jobs, Daniel Eran Dilger and others.

    Apple has said that a smaller form factor does not work interactively.

    Also, why would Apple make their developers to redo all their work for another form factor when it offers dubious benefit and thereby fragment their efforts? Apple isn’t benefiting any by having two form-factors and developers would be pissed.

    Apple already charges less for the 10″ iPad than others can for their 7″ so no benefit there.

    It is NOT as you say… “iPad apps are just blown-up versions of their iPhone counterparts.” That’s a blatantly deceptive comment and you know it.

    I would expect an article like this coming from Darrell, but you too?

    There are more compelling reasons to NOT support an 7″ iPad, and you aren’t helping here. I feel so dirty leaving this comment like I’ve been used for a pageview. Eeeuuuch. I need a shower.

    Mark Hernandez
    The Information Workshop

    1. Hah..such a pathetic fanboy. I like how you didn’t even mention the last paragraph where it says:
      “But there could be a substantial market for a tablet that sacrifices some features and functionality in exchange for more portability.”
      I find this statement VERY ironic considering a 4.3″ Evo has MANY more things that the iPad doesn’t and its 1/4 the size. Don’t u think crApple could squeeze more technology into unit that’s SO much bigger, such as: 1) Flash support, 2) Dual camera with flash and HD video recording, HDMI out, 3) effing ***USB PORT***, 4) GPS, 5) FM Radio Etc. Etc. Etc…the list goes on. So do I think a 7″ tablet can “maybe” be acceptable as a portable unit? I have to say HELL YA! Oh and the iPad is $800+ for the “fully” functioning version so I don’t know which more expensive, smaller tablets you’re talking about. For $800 I’ll buy a REAL tablet and have a fully functioning computer with real games and not just an exploded version of angry turds.

    2. “Apple has said that a smaller form factor does not work interactively.”

      I’m not sure what you’re saying, Mark, but are you suggesting that the iPhone (or my HTC Incredible, or plenty of other handsets) do not “work interactively?” When it comes to size, it’s all a matter of degrees, and there’s a constant trade-off between real estate and interactive functionality.

      For what it’s worth, I love my iPad, and I love many of the apps it runs. But there’s no question that many of those apps are nothing more than iPhone apps on steroids. And they would perform just fine on a smaller device.

  2. It won’t happen. Steve isn’t one to change his mind when he has proclaimed how things will be publicly.

    I remember all the articles about Apple needing to get into netbooks. Steve said no, but people kept talking about it. Then of course, Apple released the iPad. Who thinks Apple needs a netbook now?

    1. Apple does – see Mac Book Air 11.6

      1. That’s not a change of mind. You could have used things like the iPod video or something. The MBA isn’t a netbook by its specs and compared to other 11-inch ultraportables.

  3. In my opinion, a 7″ screen is too big for a pocket, and too small for at home.
    For mobile uses, an iPhone or iPod touch works just fine.


  4. Yeah, totally disagree. They just need to work on improving the one they have. It is pretty much perfect in size.

  5. I’m going to disagree with you on this one too. The statement, “its size and weight make it cumbersome on the go”. That’s completely untrue — unless you’re looking for something that fits in your pocket. If that is it, the iPhone is what you’re looking for as the 7″ device is still too big. The 7″ size might fit in a single hand easier, but does not have any distinct advantage in overall portability. You’re right Apple could make one cheaper, but given the cost today of the other 7″ tablets, they have no reason to fill that slot. The only people who will be buying a 7″ pad instead of a 10″ iPad are those that are in the anti-Apple crowd. And guess what? Those folks aren’t going to buy a 7″ iPad either.

    Apple spent a long time with the iPad in the labs, they didn’t decide on the 10″ version simply to ship a bigger box and have a higher BOM, they did it because this is the size that was needed to make a great product.

    I understand why the other vendors are primarily targeting 7″. They need the cost savings to have any chance against the iPad and will even use the size as salesman drivel on differentiation. Heck, 7″ sounds like 70% of the size, and not like the actually less than 50% size.

    My only worry on the 10″ is how much it will cost to produce a Retina display version. Costly yes, but it will be a beauty to behold.

  6. First things first – Apple isn’t about to come out with a 7″ iPad. No reason to. At least for now….


    “Steve isn’t one to change his mind when he has proclaimed how things will be publicly.”

    You mean like when he said there would never be a video iPod? Or when he proclaimed that the iPhone SDK was HTML and JavaScript?

    I’m guessing it’ll be around 2012 when they announce a 7″ iPad coming out in April 2012. Maybe 2013 instead. But 2011? No – they need to move developers over to creating apps for the Mac and Apple TV first. ;-)

  7. Jahan Khan Rashid Saturday, November 6, 2010

    I Agrre with the article, i had a go on the galaxy tab today and ordered one these were the deciding factors:
    A: i found it very very easy to touch type in portrait mode.
    B: it felt much lighter than the ipad for holding up for long lengths of time.
    C: Expandable memory
    D: Seemed a perfect fit for me in every way and is much more portable than the ipad.

    Dont get me wrong, nothing touches the ipad in a lot of areas and its a brilliant device but its much too big for me and i am still waiting for apple to adopt a 16:9 ratio for entertainment!!

  8. Increasing variety? No frakkin way. All Steve Jobs does is decreasing variety to narrow both their and thercustomers’ focus. Laser sharp focus on what’s not just good but really, really perfect.

    And that means trying and rejecting some really great options who’s only fault is not being perfect.

    Like a 7″ iPad which wouldn’t have become their backdoor to the throne of The New Home Computing.

  9. This is what’s known as a Toyota solution in the automobile business. Keep looking for niches you haven’t covered, that one or more competitors offer, calculate minimum sales needed to break even – and forget altogether about cannibalizing your own sales with extra sku’s.

  10. You people, yes I said it, you people do not understand Apple at all! Why don’t you just close down the Apple blog and write uninformed, misleading articles about Microsoft or Google instead. I want to like this site but when every other article has false or misleading information you make it extremely hard.

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