David Zax

A View from David Zax

More Grist for the iPad Mini Rumor Mill

Steve Jobs maybe didn’t hate small tablets after all.

  • August 9, 2012

He’d said a 7-inch tablets would be “dead on arrival.” He called them, in an earnings call, “tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad.” But a document that has emerged from the Apple-Samsung patent battles shows that in fact, Steve Jobs eventually came around to the idea of a 7-inch tablet.

In a January 2011 email, Vice President Eddy Cue wrote to Tim Cook (not yet CEO, but rather COO), “There will be a 7-inch market and we should do one. I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time… I found email, books, Facebook, and video very compelling on a 7-inch. Web browsing is definitely the weakest point, but still usable.”

“Very receptive”–a long way from having joked that 7-inch tablets should come with sandpaper so users could file down their fingers to an equivalent size. As Jobs put it, “There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them…This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet Apps.”

But the email that has emerged lends a bit more credence to the idea that a mini-iPad might be in the works, one closer to the size (and, crucially, price point) of the Kindle Fire, B&N Nook, and their ilk. There’s been a flurry of speculation in the tech press of late on a possible iPad Mini. In fact, most people think it’s pretty much a sure thing. The reliable John Gruber has said he’s heard that Apple’s working on a small iPad. Its screen size is rumored to be 7.85 inches diagonally, so significantly closer to eight inches. Gizmodo did a mockup. And ITProPortal thinks these casing photos are a smoking gun.

And it is, simply, a good idea. Especially if it can nudge its way down towards the $200 price point, then the major selling point of the Fire or Nook Tablet begins to erode. Plus, some people actually find the standard iPad a tad hefty. Personally, for my money, I’d rather have a jumbo iPhone than a mini iPad–something that still fits in my pocket, but is a tad more forgiving on my eyes. But we’ll have to wait till September 12 to know just what Apple has in store.

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