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The iPad Mini: Smaller size and price appeal in the enterprise?

Patrick Gray speculates rumors about smaller Apple tablets and larger iPhones. What does the potential iPad Mini means for enterprise technology leaders?

Apple watchers and the infamous "anonymous people familiar with the situation" have Apple pegged as releasing a new, smaller version of the iPad as early as this month, dubbed the "iPad Mini" by the cognoscenti. Rumors also hint that the next generation of the iPhone seems to be a near certainty, with the most extreme rumors pointing to a refresh of Apple's entire mobile lineup to accommodate a new specification for their interface cable.

For once, Apple seems to be playing the role of industry follower, presumably releasing a smaller and less expensive tablet to compete with Android-based units like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7. What does the potential iPad Mini mean for enterprise technology leaders?

A half-dozen Apples

An immediate concern with Apple's expanding mobile ecosystem is what Android detractors have termed fragmentation, whereby any device could adopt Google's Android, providing all manner of non-standard screen sizes and hardware specifications for application developers to contend with. Until fairly recently, Apple stayed above the fragmentation fray, offering a 9.7-inch screen on its tablet and 3.5-inch screen on its phones. With the arrival of the iPhone 4, the 3.5-inch screen accommodated twice as many pixels, and the "new iPad" performed a similar feat, essentially tasking developers with accommodating four different screen resolutions for Apple devices. A 5- or 7-inch tablet would add another resolution to that mix, and the next iPhone is rumored to sport a larger screen as well, adding a half-dozen resolutions to Apple's stable.

The varying resolutions are important to enterprise IT, since they present additional challenges on designing applications that work on the devices. Even if your mobile strategy consists largely of web-based, cross-device applications, it's still challenging to create an application that's fluid and easy to use on several very different screen sizes.

The obvious analogy is the desktop development, where most applications can successfully contend with screens that might range from a dozen inches to widescreen monsters, but this is a precedent that was established years ago. Whereas Apple seemed immune to "device sprawl," developers must now plan for Apple's half-dozen.

There's gold in them hills

The big innovation from a smaller Apple tablet will not be the technology it sports, but an anticipated lower price. For companies where the $399 point of entry is a bit dear, a 25-50% price reduction might be the goose that gets tablets in play. Couple this with Apple's recent patent victory over Android-based Samsung, and a price drop could grease the skids for an Apple intro.

Similarly, many organizations are still using older mobile phones, and a low-price Apple device might allow for a test deployment of both tablets and Apple devices in an enterprise environment before committing to more expensive "iPad Maxis" or iPhones.

Apple behind the times?

From an industry perspective, the most interesting development with the iPhone Mini is that it appears to be one of the first major reactionary maneuvers on the part of Apple since it redefined tablet computing with the launch of the iPad. This can be interpreted in two broad ways: either Apple has felt competitive pressure from smaller and cheaper Android tablets, or Apple has become a bit less dogmatic and is willing to experiment with different form factors and device features. I hope we're seeing a bit of the latter. While there's an obvious delicate balance between providing a compelling product portfolio and creating a confusing and overwrought product line, there are still opportunities in the tablet form factor that industry leader Apple could reinvigorate.

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About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

7 comments
simon
simon

I don't have an iPad but if I got one it would be for the bigger screen. A mini iPad should have something other than lower price to make it a desirable purchase, or would the Apple badge be enough?

Gisabun
Gisabun

All these rumors flingf around and still no respoonse from Apple. They must be laughing at the free publicity AND the dingbats who come out with these rumors with [in 99% of the cases] no actual hard evidence that it would be out.

rengek
rengek

If your concern is cost then you should opt for Nexus 7. Its a fantastic tablet made even more fantastic for its price. There is little you can do on an ipad from a enterprise perspective that you couldn't do and in many cases even better on a Nexus 7. What exactly would an enterprise market view as more appropriate 8.9 vs 7? Seems moot at that size. Besides these "will this device be more appropriate" arguments are silly when you haven't seen the devices live.

Skruis
Skruis

So I have to rely on others opinions about this but the thought occurs to me that there's already iPad's in the lower price ranges. Aren't there? Yes, they're an older generation but there is an 'iPad' available in the $400 price range ($300 if you get refurbished) so that leads me to think that 'most' people that wanted an iPad have already gotten one. Will releasing a 'current version' iPad-mini around 7-8" have that much appeal or is just an attempt to offer a solution for every category cause I just don't sense a pent up 'pressure' of anticipation for an iPad-mini? I myself am more interested in the Windows 8 tablets but to me, assuming that Android and iOS have roughly the same capabilities with some UI differences, if there's a 10"+ Android tablet for $300 and an iPad-mini with an 7-8" screen for $300, I'd probably opt for the larger screen. It seems like a bigger bang for your buck unless you have an explicit iOS preference at which point, I'd assume that you've probably already gotten an iPad because you're an Apple fan. It could just be more of an attempt to de-value the Android lines in the minds of consumers. If a 7-8" iPad mini is $300 and the larger Android is $400, the iPad 'must' be better because it's a smaller device for more money.

T-Wrench
T-Wrench

that for some reason, you don't like Apple. The comment " It seems like a bigger bang for your buck unless you have an explicit iOS preference at which point, I'd assume that you've probably already gotten an iPad because you're an Apple fan." leads me to believe this. If I've misunderstood your comment then I apologize. I was never an Apple fan before my wife bought me an Ipad(1st generation), nor do I own any other Apple device. However, after owning and using an Ipad, I can see why there are many Apple fans, and yes devoted fans. I do plan on buying a newer Ipad, just not right now, but because I've had a great experience with the one I have, I take it with me everywhere I go. I do a lot of writing, and esp. when I'm on the road it's just much easier to pull over and grab the Ipad, rather than pull over, move into the passenger seat, get out the laptop, boot up, write what I need, etc, etc. And for what it's worth, I am a big fan and user of Windows, just recently purchased a new Sony Vaio laptop with Win7. I also believe that no one has an office suite that can compare to MS Office. However, when I'm writing, I now prefer to do most of my writing with Pages, an Apple program. The great thing with Pages, is that I can export it as a Word doc, if I want to. Thanks... TW

Skruis
Skruis

With that comment specifically. I wasn't saying which is more valuable or which is better. I was trying to imagine what a typical consumer that wasn't invested in either OS would think if they saw the two side by side. But you're right, I'm not an Apple fan but I'm also not an Apple hater. I've spent a significant amount of time with Windows 8, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad's, Android Phones, Android Tablets through my own usage and through the support of my clients devices. I'm invested in the Microsoft platform (SkyDrive, Zune (Xbox Music), Xbox, Microsoft Office, etc) and I haven't ran into any issues so I've stuck with it because I don't want to spend my personal time managing the interaction of the separate platforms. It all just works and I suspect that anyone that's invested in the Google and Apple systems would say the same.

T-Wrench
T-Wrench

my part. It sounded as if you were saying that the only reason to buy an Apple device, was because you were an apple fan. With all the flame wars going on, it's hard sometimes to understand one's point. From my own perspective, I enjoy using both Windows PC's and my Ipad. They fit my needs, and work together seamlessly.... Thanks... TW