Why buy an iPad Mini?

It looks like Apple will launch its slimmed down tablet, the “iPad Mini” at a special event in October. Who will buy such a device? To get a better perspective, it might be worth taking a look at Google’s recently released Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 has been described as a “game changer.” It has been described as being “way ahead” of existing Android tablets with its high-quality hardware and relatively cheap price. It’s also the only tablet so far to ship with “Jelly Bean,” or Android version 4.1.

“Jelly Bean” is important, as it gives Android devices some of the fluidity and ease of use that was thought to be lacking. Those looking to buy an Android tablet should look into this as it apparently makes a world of difference. In the past, Android lacked the “rock solid” feel of iOS devices.

In the last quarter of 2011, Android tablet shipments reached about 40 percent, with the iPad accounting for about 60 percent of the market. Interestingly, of the Android tablet sales, 40% of these were Amazon Fire or Nook, which are popular for reading e-books. These devices use the 7-inch form factor and show that there is substantial consumer demand for small tablets. It seems obvious that to remain a later market Apple must offer something in this form factor.

According to an article in CIO Magazine, Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit and iOS developer, says that the iPad mini will not only have a smaller, eye-straining screen, but it probably won’t have a Retina display either.

However, Wiens believes the iPad mini will be widely used by technicians in the field, where mobility trumps everything else. Such employees don’t have much use for fancy Retina displays. However, it has to be readable in sunlight.

“With service manuals, you need to see pictures to make repairs, which makes the iPad much more useful than the iPhone,” says Wiens. “However, you may be in tough places, so something in between would be reasonable.”

In the same article, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi says that a small tablet probably won’t have much of an impact on the business. Milanesi covers the tablet market at Gartner and is very familiar with small tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, which she says are too small to do much work.

She says that a 7-inch Apple tablet, coupled with a cheap price, will resonate with consumers, which somewhat undermines her argument against enterprise adoption. Her thinking is this: If an iPad mini is a hit with the consumer, it’s likely to bring BYOD to the enterprise anyway.

According to Steve Jobs, “The reason why [won’t] making a 7-inch tablet is not because we don’t want to hit [a cheaper] price, it is because we think the screen is too small to express the software…”

There are fears that stripped-down iPad apps won’t play well with the new form factor. This is unlikely, considering the efforts developers are already making to support multiple form factors on other platforms. Developers already manage to produce multi-purpose apps for iPhone and iPad today. They will do the same with the mini.

For those who think there isn’t enough text to fit on this screen, keep in mind that this form factor is already the mainstream size for e-readers.

The future is bright for the sub-10-inch form factor. Its affordability and ubiquity in the consumer market will mean that its adoption in everyday life is inevitable. The decision to buy one or not will depend on the size of your pocket!

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