Why the Apple iPad Mini matters

Price of the iPad Mini is perhaps the biggest unknown at this point. My guess: $299-399. Despite the seemingly innocuous idea of a smaller iPad, however, there are actually some big ideas percolating beneath the surface. Here's a few.

iPad Mini: Will Apple offer it an iPod-inspired rainbow of colors?
iPad Mini: Will Apple offer it an iPod-inspired rainbow of colors?

I’m reading this morning that the impending iPad Mini has been delayed by production woes. It seems some of the parts are quite magical and factories are having a difficult time gluing them together in such a tiny space. I’m confident it’ll sort itself out and by year’s end we will see a flood of Apple’s highly anticipated 7.85-inch tablet hit the market.

Price is the biggest unknown at this point. My guess: $299-399.

Also, many are wondering what colors Apple will offer. Will the iPad Mini be available in a rainbow-like array of colors as seen with the iPod Touch? It would be a logical move. If anyone has figured out that these mobile devices are also fashion accessories, even status symbols, it’s Apple.

Despite the seemingly innocuous and assured idea of a smaller iPad, however, there are actually some big ideas percolating beneath the surface. Here’s a few.

Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire will face massive competition

Amazon had the small tablet (and e-Reader) market virtually to itself for years. Yes, there was the Samsung Tab 7, but it couldn’t touch the integrated content ecosystem, nor the massive marketing engine at Amazon’s disposal. Barnes and Noble has done well with the Nook, yet it hasn’t become a lust-worthy, hot seller. Google joined the party this summer with the well-received $199 Nexus 7. Built by Asus, the 7-inch tablet proved that consumers did want a smaller tablet – that portability was a key issue, and up to this point not adequately addressed by the 10-inch offerings. The iPad Mini will disrupt the lower-end of the market. Sure, it might cannibalize sales of the 10-inch iPad, but it will definitely cut into sales of the Kindle Fire, and Nexus 7.

Tim Cook’s Apple

I’m not about to declare Apple as wholly CEO Tim Cook’s company; the spirit of Steve Jobs will echo in those halls for decades to come, if not forever. Jobs, though, was dead set against the idea of an iPad with a small screen. So the fact that management opted to build one in spite of its charismatic co-founder’s wishes, could suggest Apple is wrestling free of the reality distortion field. Time will tell if this is a good thing.

iPhone 5 + iPad Mini = New Starbucks Darlings

Tech’s new fashionista couple will be the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini. This is how it’ll go down. Caffeine Joe and Caffeine Princess enter Starbucks, while talking on their iPhones. They then continue conversations on bluetooth, while pulling iPad Mini from their manbag and purse, respectively…

Premium Price Model Tested

Word is Google is working with a partner on a $99 tablet which could possibly bow in time for the holidays. I predicted sub $100 tablets, and suggested they’d sell like gangbusters. Only problem: I thought it would happen last year. Oops. Regardless, that day will come. And it will test the premium pricing model Apple can command for its innovative designs. Will consumers be willing to spend a 30-60% premium over the competition? If sales of the iPhone 5 (and all the models that preceded it) are any indication, then that’s a rhetorical question.

Proliferation of Tablet Models

You can buy laptops in all sorts of configurations with all sorts of different screen sizes. 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-, 17-inches. Take your pick. That, of course, wasn’t always the case. When laptops first hit the market the idea was portability; you couldn’t lug around your desktop, but you could easily tote, say, a 6-pound clamshell around town. Soon enough, gamers wanted something more powerful with a larger display. So too did graphics professionals. Others were willing to trade-off horsepower for weight. Eventually the Netbook would emerge. And, recently, the s0-called ultrabooks. I expect a similar evolution with tablets – a plethora of form factors, price points, target markets. We’re already seeing clever hybrid designs, especially from Asus (look for some of their interesting Windows 8 models later this month – I’ve seen a preview and they’re pretty darn cool). Essentially, the tablet market is where the PC/laptop market was three decades ago.

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