Steve Jobs

Apple surprised absolutely no-one this week when it revealed its new 7.9inch tablet: the iPad Mini. The existence of the device had been fuelling the rumour mill for the better part of a year, so it was more a case of when Apple was going to announce it, not if. See also: iPad mini review

It hasn’t had the best reception possible, but to be perfectly fair to Apple, the original iPad actually received a pretty lukewarm welcome (take a look at this report from Tom’s Hardware) when it was announced and we all know what happened then. What does surprise me, however, is how strikingly the iPad mini flies in the face of Jobs’ address at Apple’s Q4 Earning’s Call in 2010.

iPad mini

Jobs was extremely outspoken and dismissive in his opinions of the seven-inch models when he spoke of the tablet market and any competition that may exist there at the 2010 event. So dismissive, in fact, that had he not sadly passed away last year I fully expect I’d be writing this article about some outlandish concept for a new Apple product we didn’t even know we needed until we were told it existed (iCar anyone?). Transcript provided by Seeking Alpha:

“...I'd like to comment on the avalanche of tablets poised to enter the market in the coming months. First, it appears to be just a handful of credible entrants, not exactly an avalanche. Second, almost all of them use seven-inch screens as compared to iPad's near 10-inch screen. Let's start there. One naturally thinks that a seven-inch screen would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a seven-inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad's 10-inch screen. You heard me right; just 45% as large.”

Well. That’s a pretty large and deceptive difference. This is given further context when he adds:

“If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on the seven-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display. This size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion.”

Aha. Now we’re getting to the core of the issue. Not only is the iPad used in an example to show its superior size, but the content of other tablets is brought into the discussion. Although the gap is closing of late, Apple still has more apps available on its store than the amount listed for the Google Play Android store. What else does Jobs have to add?

“... every tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone, its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse, its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to fit a tablet in our pockets is clearly the wrong trade-off. The seven-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.”

Bingo. This is the very centre of the matter. The late Mr Jobs makes an excellent point here. The purpose of the iPad was to bridge the gap between the smartphone and the laptop or PC in a better way than the notebook computer had. I don’t think anyone can deny it succeeded incredibly well.

Whilst the subsequent "avalanche" of tablets that flooded the market did indeed end up being no more than Jobs’ predicted "handful", Amazon’s Kindle and Google’s Nexus tablets have certainly proven that there’s a market for them. In Q3 of 2012, Apple sold around 15.5 million iPads, whereas the Google Nexus 7 scraped along with only 1 million and Amazon having sold around 5 million Kindles throughout the past year.

Back to the iPad mini which is the rather small, unimpressive elephant in the room that you’d be forgiven for missing. Let’s talk technical specifications first, comparing it to the other “tweener” tablets.


iPad Mini

Google Nexus 7

Kindle Fire

Screen Size

















Dual-core 1GHz

Quad-core nVidia Tegra 3

Dual-core 1.2GHz


£269 / $329

£159 / $199

£129 / $199

* Prices are for base model of each tablet where applicable.

So, although the iPad mini has the largest screen it doesn’t have the highest resolution. In fact, the only area in which the mini really does lead is on storage, thanks to a top capacity of 64GB compared to 16GB in the two rivals. The iPad mini is actually running the same (or similar) gear beneath its hood as the iPad 2, which was released 18 months ago - that's an extremely long time in tablet history. Although it is the most expensive of the three tablets compared here, it should be noted that the Nexus and Kindle Fire are being sold at a loss.

If Steve Jobs was still with us, I’d dread to think what he’d say about such a step backwards in innovation. Each iteration of the iPad has fit more into less space, so to make something smaller – with outdated hardware – just for the sake of it seems contrary to that philosophy.

The entire idea of the project seems to fly in the face of all that the company has been doing in recent years, first with smartphones and then in creating a tablet market where nobody thought there was one. Apple has already proven that 10in tablets are the winning size, purely from sheer volume of sold units. The battle has already been won, but it seems now Apple wants to take the dregs of the market that it left to its competitors as well.

 About the author:

This guest article was written by Mark Atkinson who works in customer care for Refresh Cartridges