Why the iPad Won’t Get Smaller

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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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