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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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  11. Brian S Hall Monday, August 6, 2012

    Congratulations!
    That said, I still have doubts about your analysis re smaller tablets. I think that the price point, not the size, is the primary driver behind the (relative) success of smaller tablets. Let’s say the current iPad was $199 and not $499. Just how many Galaxy Tabs or Kindle Fires would sell then?

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    1. Price is part of it, Brian, but “value” is too: at $199 you’re not getting an iPad experience today, but you’re also not paying for one. And if the current iPad was $199, a smaller Nexus, Tab or Fire would surely still be far less expensive. Another way to look at it (and I don’t know the answer, just posting the question): how much does the $399 iPad 2 hurt sales of the Nexus 7 or other small slates?

      I still contend that portability is another factor; not price alone.

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  12. You are wrong about the iPod. You view is adult view. This is one of most sold game consul today, It is also great pocket device, giving you the possibility to enjoy apple world with other phones. For example Blackberry and Ipod; great combination.

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    1. Totally fair point; my kids do like the iPod touch, so maybe I should listen to them a little more! ;)

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  13. I don’t want an iPhone. It’s too expensive if lost/damaged and the contracts are crazy money. I get all the call function I need from a $15 phone PAYG. Also, I’m seldom far away from a WiFi network. The iPod Touch is a lovely litte device – truly pocket sized, robust and I can leave it in the glove box without fear. A 7 inch iPad is jut too big when walking down to the pub or out and about.

    I can only assume that Americans have bigger back pockets than we Brits do ;o)

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  14. I don’t want an iPhone. It’s too expensive if lost/damaged and the contracts are crazy money. I get all the call function I need from a $15 phone PAYG. Also, I’m seldom far away from a WiFi network. The iPod Touch is a lovely litte device – truly pocket sized, robust and I can leave it in the glove box without fear. A 7 inch iPad is too big when walking down to the pub or out and about. WhIle I don’t run with my iPod, I know people who do and should they carry a 7″ iPad?

    I can only assume that Americans have bigger back pockets than we Brits do ;o)

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  15. The iPod touch is an excellent device. What it really needs is a 3G sim and refresh and it’s again a very relevant device.

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  16. I think everyone agrees with you on the kindle fire. That’s not the right tablet to compare to the ipad…

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    1. No problem and I agree; I should have mentioned the Nexus 7 as well, which is my “take everywhere” tablet now.

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  17. iPod sales down, iPod touch sales are still growing. Why dump it? It generates App Store revenue and grows userbase.

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  18. As an Apple shareholder and enthusiast I have had the exact same thought. I own an iPad and iPhone and think both are wonderful but I believe the audience served by the iPod Touch would be better served by an iPad Mini. Perhaps 7″ is a bit small but 7.85″ as rumored might be just right.

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  19. My first “tablet-y reader-y mobile-y” device was the first BN Nook. My intention was to read more, not do a lot of mobile computing. I had an unlocked iPhone on T-Mobile and found myself on there much more often than I was reading my Nook.

    I returned the Nook and bought the first iPad. Loved it for mobile browsing, games, etc. But never got into iBooks. I tried every other reading app available. The reading posture was uncomfortable and the screen was too wide and eye-fatiguing.

    Flash forward to this past June when I bought my second iPad, an iPad 3/New iPad/Whatever. Love the Retina display, but not how thin and ungrippable the iPad had become.

    Two weeks after I got my new iPad, I actually WON an Amazon Kindle Fire in a raffle. This was a new experience for me. I had a coveted (by some) gadget that I neither needed nor wanted. But the gadget-head in me couldn’t part with it. So I put some small apps and books on it to use on my commute (1.5 hours each way by train).

    Now, the iPad rarely comes out on the train. I still use it to play music or watch movies on my desk (using a Smart Cover to prop it up) and my two-year-old loves to use it (note to self, get the kid a Nabi for Christmas). The iPad is still my primary office and home tablet.

    However, the Kindle Fire has carved out a distinct niche in my use. It’s a treat to hold (maybe a bit heavy) because it’s SUBSTANTIAL to hold. The slight rubberized back, thickness and size allow me to hold in one hand. The screen size allows my eyes to glide back and forth in a more natural movement than on the expanse that is the iPad screen.

    The custom Android OS is HORRIBLE and I navigate as sparsely as I must to get to the content I want. But the form factor is dead on perfect for me.

    If Apple releases a Kindle Fire-sized iPad with the iOS ubiquity and experience, they’ll have a winner or an eReader.

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  20. I had been carrying an iPad out and about since it was released (I’ve upgraded through all the generations). Then this year I finally got a MacBook Air 13 and my iPad has barely left my house since (though I still use it there all the time). What I’ve found is that carrying both the Air and the iPad is too heavy and cumbersome. On the other hand, a 7.85″ iPad would be a PERFECT adjunct to the Air for consulting documents. I know I might not exactly be typical (Air, iPad, iPhone), I think there’s definitely a spot for the smaller iPad and if it does come out at $249 or less I’ll be ordering one.

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  21. A small iPad to you is just a big iPhone to Apple ;-) Stay tuned!

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  22. I have a Kindle Fire and use it only for reading books (which I could do on the iPad but I do like the smaller size for books). Everything else, it’s iPad. Even though I am a Prime member, I usually watch Netflix on iPad instead … if Amazon releases a video client on iPad I’ll bounce between the two.

    Nothing really bad to say about the Fire, other than its not an iPad. But that says everything.

    I’ll likely add a 7 inch iPad to my nightstand, too (and recycle the Fire down to a relative). Yes, I am an Apple fanboy, but that’s because since using Apple’s since 1984, flirting occasionally with other platforms, I appreciate technology that simply works. This old timer even loves Mountain Lion — was afraid Apple was dumbing down the OS, but was delighted that the word that comes to mind instead is “streamlined.”

    Love my iPad. Love my iPhone. Love my Macs. And will love the MaxiTouch or MiniPad too.

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  23. Daniel Mullaly Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    Keep the small iPad…i like the size of the one I have, thank you very much. The 7″ screen just isn’t well suited for web browsing.

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  24. “Smaller tablets are more portable.” Thanks, Kevin, for the edification!

    And I have feel little sorrow for someone who finds the iPad’s size and weight so decidedly fatiguing.

    Children tote them around with no problem and no spinal injuries.

    You make it sound like if you rest your iPad on your chest while on the couch, you need a “spotter” to lift it off, so your chest can expand and you can breathe again. If an iPad poses an existential threat to you, then PLEASE! DO use a 7″ tablet! I’m concerned for you, and I see a class action suit brewing.

    “Yes, I need to work out more to carry bigger tablets.” I guess so! May I suggest you start with those pink 1½ pound hand dumbbells and work up from there?

    (It was just announced that iPad “Power Lifting” was just approved as an event for the next Summer Olympics.)

    “…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?”

    Absolutely! Yes! Steve Jobs himself said you [Apple] have to stay out of certain markets and let the players claw each other to death. When he took the reigns at Apple, he reduced the number of products from over 350 to just ten.

    Even before Apple has entered the noisy fracas that is the tweener market, there are almost two dozen companies (that I am aware of) offering “Smaller-Than-iPad” mobile devices, as they learned a hard lesson when they tried to compete against Apple with devices of the iPad’s size and form factor.

    With so very many players in the tweener market, so much >consumer confusionINVENTORAWFUL< for the brand image Scott Forstall and others worked SO hard to create.

    Apple: DON'T DO IT! YOU'LL NOT ONLY SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING "YET ANOTHER" ENTRANT IN THIS CHEAP-O MARKET, BUT YOU'LL DO IRREPERABLE HARM TO THE iPAD BRAND!!!

    Oh – and hire a "service animal" (a spider monkey?) to assist poor Kevin Tofel in transporting his iPad and occasionally saving him from asphyxiation.

    (It will make for a touching human interest piece on apple.com)

    Peace!

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  25. [Moderator: apparently, the Comments system doesn't get along with certain characters, so my post got screwed up. Here is what it's supposed to be. (I trust you'll approve it!)]

    “Smaller tablets are more portable.” Thanks, Kevin, for the edification!

    And I have feel little sorrow for someone who finds the iPad’s size and weight so decidedly fatiguing.

    Children tote them around with no problem and no spinal injuries.

    You make it sound like if you rest your iPad on your chest while on the couch, you need a “spotter” to lift it off, so your chest can expand and you can breathe again. If an iPad poses an existential threat to you, then PLEASE! DO use a 7″ tablet! I’m concerned for you, and I see a class action suit brewing.

    “Yes, I need to work out more to carry bigger tablets.” I guess so! May I suggest you start with those pink 1½ pound hand dumbbells and work up from there?

    (It was just announced that iPad “Power Lifting” was just approved as an event for the next Summer Olympics.)

    “…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?”

    Absolutely! Yes! Steve Jobs himself said you [Apple] have to stay out of certain markets and let the players claw each other to death. When he took the reigns at Apple, he reduced the number of products from over 350 to just ten.

    Even before Apple has entered the noisy fracas that is the tweener market, there are almost two dozen companies (that I am aware of) offering “Smaller-Than-iPad” tablet devices, as they LEARNED A HARD LESSON when they tried to compete against Apple with devices of the iPad’s size and form factor.

    With so very many players in the tweener market, so much consumer confusion, the noisy tweener market will quickly switch from competing on each product’s merits to an un-winnable and deadly price war.

    Just ask Dell and the #1 maker of personal computers, HP\Compaq, how competing on those terms goes.

    If Apple is “Entrant #25″ in the tweener market, how will that square with Apple’s hard fought reputation as the INVENTOR of markets that never existed before and as an innovator? A leader, not a “wait-and-see” follower?

    What damage will be done to the pricier, classier iPad brand and uncompromising UX if Apple cuts technological corners just to have an “also ran” in the tweener market priced at $249 – or even $399.

    The price, the sub-par UX (8GB, off-the-shelf, single-core ARM processor, 1024×768, “You can’t download this movie [or game] until you delete some apps or content and free up storage space”) that Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook customers have been complaining about would be AWFUL for the brand image Scott Forstall and others worked SO hard to create.

    Apple: DON’T DO IT! YOU’LL NOT ONLY SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING “YET ANOTHER” ENTRANT IN THIS CHEAP-O MARKET, BUT YOU’LL DO IRREPERABLE HARM TO THE iPAD BRAND!!!

    Oh – and hire a “service animal” (a spider monkey?) to assist poor Kevin Tofel in transporting his iPad and occasionally saving him from asphyxiation.

    (It will make for a touching human interest piece on apple.com)

    Peace!

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    1. Definitely one of the more entertaining comments I’ve read in a while; thanks! :) And if Apple doesn’t launch a smaller iPad, I’ll start a new exercise regiment right away. Of course, if they do, you have agree not to make fun of us “weaklings” ever again. LOL!

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      1. Kevin,

        Clearly you are a good sport.

        : )

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  26. Oh dear Kevin. Heavens no. “Mini iPad” are words that must never be spoken. 6000 years ago, at the beginning of time, intelligent design dictated the shape of the iPad. It is the natural order of things. Please enough of this evolution of design talk. Thank you.

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    1. Amen!

      “iPad” stands for something distinct, distinguished and in razor sharp focus.

      Blurring this focus would be a colossal and very consequential mistake. Maybe not immediately, but definitely in the long term.

      Perhaps hoping against hope, and accepting that a smaller “iPad” is a fait accompli, my second pipe dream is that “iPad” is not included in the name of this new product.

      : (

      P.S. Read anything by authors Al Ries and Jack Trout and you won’t have to take my word for it.

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  27. I’m shocked about all the articles wanting a smaller iPad…shocked. After using the iPad 1, now iPad 3, I find myself wanting a bigger iPad. I want to do more photo editing, more writing, etc. And I don’t need the power of my MBA most times – tho I do find the iPad apps a little light in features…that said, if someone were to ask me for my two cents, I’d say bigger iPhone, say 5″…for email, quick surfing, etc., etc. and bigger iPad, say 12-13″….and I’ll leave my MBA at home – which would be awesome…carrying both is getting old :-)

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