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Summary:

We know that Apple started seeing some validation of the 7-inch tablet market some 18 months ago. Those reasons still apply, but there are even more to consider today. Here’s another look at a handful of observations on why Apple should enter this market.

lots of tablets

Dear Apple (particularly Eddy Cue but also Tim Cook, Scott Forstall and Phil Schiller),

I wanted to say thanks for making my birthday weekend so special with news from your trial with Samsung. I was celebrating the fact that I made it through another year and was offline when the news hit. Eddy — can I call you Eddy? — you read one of my more controversial posts from Jan. 2011 and shared it with Tim, Scott and Phil. Eddy, I echo your comments about most activities working quite well on a 7-inch tablet and read that you thought browsing wasn’t so great. I find it pretty decent, but you say “tomato,” I say “tomahto,” and it’s all good.

By the way, that web browser from early 2011 has already been replaced by a much better version of Chrome. I recommend giving it a try as I think it’s at least as good, if not better than Apple’s own Safari for iOS. Oh, and don’t try the watered-down version on an iOS device. We all know third-party browsers still use iOS WebKit and can’t use their own JavaScript engine; that’s Apple’s prerogative and I’m fine with that, although I’d love to see you reconsider it.

Anyway, since we’re now reading each other, I thought to continue the conversation. (OK, we’re not really on speaking terms or anything, but my kids thought it was super cool that you read, and then suggested others read, their dad’s articles on mobile technology. I know we’ll never meet, but for my kids’ sake, can you play along for me? Think of the kids, Eddy!) It turns out I’ve shared some other articles with more reasons that can help if you’re serious about the whole smaller iPad project. Assuming there’s still time for some input, that is.

More validation and reasons

So two months before I even wrote the “Why I Dumped the iPad (Hint: Size Matters)” article I noticed that Samsung had sold 600,000 Galaxy Tabs one month after the product launched. That’s a pittance compared to the number of iPads you guys sell, but I think it starts to validate that there was, or is, a market for smaller slates. Remember, that first Galaxy Tab came with a slightly modified phone interface; not a true tablet operating system. Let’s face it: You Apple folks have a smart-looking interface for tablets that is intuitive to use. If Samsung moved 600,000 tablets back then with a phone UI — in a market segment that really didn’t exist — just think what you could do with iOS 6 on a small slate now.

A month later, I suggested four compelling reasons to get in this game. It’s not that you really need to — you’ve got enough cash to help bail the U.S. out of this slow economy with your own stimulus package — but as the top mobile company in the world, do you want to cede a segment to a company that’s both a key hardware business parter and you main opposition in the courts? Wow, that’s sounds weird when I read it out loud. Can’t you and Samsung just arm wrestle for settlement terms or something? Wait, I digress…

Yes I need to work out more to carry bigger tablets

Those four reasons I gave you in Dec. 2010, still apply and the first one you’ve already noted yourself: Smaller tablets are more portable. And listen, I might have dumped the original iPad, but I did buy the iPad 2 and the new iPad. (So we’re still pseudo-BFFs, right?) They’re both awesome tablets, but only when I have them with me. And at 125 pounds, my skinny arms aren’t made to carry the iPad or around, nor consume content for any length of time while holding it. That’s probably on me, and I promise to do more push-ups. Until I get pumped up though, I’m turning to a smaller slate when I walk out my door.

The iPod touch has done what it needed; it’s time to let go

About those other reasons; some of those are now evident too. I suggested that credible 7-inch tablets were launching and it’s fair to say that’s more true today; think of that Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet or the newer Galaxy Tab devices, for example. You probably won’t like my third reason — I know others didn’t — which is an observation that the iPod touch will have limited appeal in the future. Of course, I wrote that in the past, so the future is now. Yup, that hurts my head too when I think about it. Sorry. Your iPod sales are down and have been trending that way for a while. It’s a neat device, but the iPhone is more capable. And I know I don’t need to remind you, but the average selling price of that iPhone is more than double that of an iPod touch.

Maybe it’s time to let the iPod touch wither on the vine; keep making it, but don’t improve it much more — kinda like what you did last year with it, which was really nothing. That opens up the pricing spot for a spiffy small iPad to start at $249 for the lowest storage capacity and $449 for the highest. Hey, that’s $50 less than a full-sized iPad, giving you that “If you only spend a little more…..” selling angle if you want to push it.

Anyway, thanks again for validating what I’ve thought prior. Even though we’re only “friends” in my mind, I’ll keep sharing my mobile experiences with smaller tablets with you and every once in a while, maybe you could just leave me a comment on the posts. You know, keep me in line and continue the conversation. It’s not that I think you guys need my input or validation for your products — you’re done just fine without me — but it’ll keep my kids happy. Thanks!

  1. Enjoy your 15 min! I bought and returned the kindle fire twice before getting the iPad. Apple made a masterpiece and anything else is severely wanting. Eddie cue’s opinion notwithstanding.

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  2. John S. Wilson Monday, August 6, 2012

    I agree that a 7 inch tablet is more portable. But after trying the Kindle Fire out for a month I just wasn’t impressed. I’m a Prime subscriber and was looking forward to the instant streaming, however the screen size was too small to fully enjoy it.

    What did you think of the Fire?

    Also, I’m really interested to know if you think there could be a legit legal issue with Apple not allowing third party apps to be default for (browser, Maps, etc). Seems very suspect to me. Additionally I don’t see the point. Let consumers choose. They still love their Apple gear; in fact they’ll probably be more pleased with their gear if they could consume content in a way they prefer.

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    1. John, at this point, I highly recommend trying the Nexus 7 although it doesn’t offer Amazon Video. However, if you think the 7-inch tablet size is too small for video, then your user preferences tell me that you’re not in the market for a small slate. Nothing wrong with that!

      I don’t think there will be any legal issues with Apple limiting third party apps. Why? Apple makes the hardware and the software; it’s a complete Apple product. As such, I think they can build in restrictions the way the see fit, even if I’d rather they didn’t.

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  3. I too enjoy the option of putting my 7″ tablet in my back jeans pocket when out and about. That said, a 4:3 mini iPad form factor will (may)not allow it. Perhaps a european man bag will be a must have accessory.

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    1. Yup, a 4:3 slate won’t likely fit in a back pocket. That would bum me out, even though I carry my tablet in hand most of the time.

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  4. A Kindle Fire, ca 2011, will hardly be comparable to a 2012 7″ iOS device (or a next gen Kindle Fire for that matter). It is great that GigaOM stimulated discussion at Apple and elsewhere. The perspective that real world tech guys like Kevin offer is a crucial part of improving the consumer experience and broadening our choices. Bravo. (and Happy Birthday!) By the way, I hope the iPod touch in its present form factor stays around for a while. It is a fantastic tween device, especially with FaceTime. Ask most any mom and her ten year old daughter.

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    1. Thanks much Richard and point taken on the iPod touch.

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  5. I buy that many devices will meet the diversity of user needs. But, I think that a SIM free iPhone is still a good option.

    Frankly, a similar size device with less of a frame would not be bad. An in between device may simply reduce sales.

    The iPad is simply begging to grow in power…

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  6. Obsolete the iPod touch? Now, when the Freedom Pop is about to launch? you know, the device that turns the ipod into a contract free, unlocked iphone? No, noo, nooo, no, not now.

    I’ve been waiting for someone to make what’s essentially a 3G/4G modem and combine it with a VoIP client, and run it on devices like the touch, or even other tablets. This may be the spark that triggers the end of bundling, as it provides a work-around for unlocked iphones.

    As for a 7″ tablet, you haven’t convinced me of it. Come on, Kevin, even though you only weigh 125 lbs, you can still carry the 10″ tablets. They’re not that much heavier. Think of your eyes, not your arms. Eyes wear out faster than arms, and you won’t have to scroll as much with a 10″ screen.

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    1. You’re right, the 10″ tablets aren’t much heavier to carry around, but that’s not the problem I have; using them while in the hand gets tiresome faster. ;)

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  7. No mention of the Google Nexus 7 yet. This tablet is going to be an Apple competitor, only thing missing is better software that of course Apple will do.
    But I agree with one comment I sure hope it fits in the back pockets of my jeans, because then I know it’ll fit in many pockets.
    I’m hoping for a 7 inch tablet with 16 gigs for a basic model. Starting at around 250. As I already own an iPad, iPhone, iMac why not the 7 inch mini.

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    1. Absolutely love the Nexus 7 I bought; shame on me for not mentioning that device in the conversation!

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  8. I hope it’s a 7.7 or 7.8 inches and has a retina display. My Galaxy Tab 7.7 has 1280 x 800 or so but it’s kinda jaggy in small text so a retina display will definitely sway me back to the iDevice fold.

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  9. Robert Stoeber Monday, August 6, 2012

    You had me right up until the iPod Touch comment. I think there are already a lot of mobile workers that could use a really small tablet, without spending the extra bucks for the iPhone. More business apps are coming every day so I expect the business market for all size tablets to keep growing like crazy.

    The real question is whether I could give up my big iPad and make due with only a smaller one, or if I will end up using both for different things. My guess today is that the big iPad will spend more of its time indoors while a smaller iPad joins me whenever I go out.

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    1. I agree 100%

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  10. Hilarious. Apple sold what? 30-35 million iPods, last year – and you counsel pushing that income into deliberate decline above and beyond normal EOL.

    What did you study after you flunked business?

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