The anticipation for the iPad 3 has been in overdrive for some days now, typical for any Apple product launch. However, it seems that this reaches a crescendo when we are looking at the launch of a product version that has already delivered it’s share of shock and awe before. What else? What if? Will it? Won’t it?
The interesting bit in all this is will Apple introduce an iPad-mini at some point, essentially a 7.85-in iPad in addition to the regular 9.7-in form we have today. There are conflicting reports – some say Apple will never do this. Even though the Kindle Fire has shown that there is room for a low-end smaller-sized tablet, Apple is not about the low-end. Apple will never do this because Steve has dissed it in the past, of course that’s no reason to say it won’t. Yet, there are “credible sources” who claim Apple will indeed introduce a lower-priced smaller iPad in Q3.
The question to ask really is: Why does Apple need a smaller-sized iPad-mini? Is it merely to flank the Kindle Fire and the Samsungs and Sonys of the world?
I don’t think so. To try to answer this question, lets try to understand two things: how the iPad is actually used and the one significant difference between Mac OS X and iOS.
The iPad is essentially a single-user device. Yet it is perhaps the most shared device in the household. This is because it stores a variety of apps that have different appeal and use for different members of the family, including kids, all of whom use the same iPad. It is no secret that kids are amongst the most prolific users of the device. Even a baby knows it’s way around the iPad without getting lost.
A device designed for one is used by many. This brings us to the second point. A big difference between Mac OS X and iOS is that iOS does not support multiple user accounts like OS X does. User accounts are not new. They allow multiple users to share the same machine. Typically this is common in businesses where a single computer is shared between multiple employees, and/or to separate administrator accounts from user accounts and guest accounts. But how many consumers create user accounts on their home computers? We typically seem to have a computer per adult, and in most cases, a computer per teen who needs to have their own system for homework, school research, carrying it to school, etc.
It is perhaps by design that iOS does not support user accounts, because Apple would want every individual to have their own iOS device. Thus far kids have been second-class citizens in the overall iOS user base, getting the hand-me-downs when a parent gets a new iOS device. The best they get to call as their own is an iPod Touch, or worse, just a regular iPod.
With the iPad-mini, Apple will get to change this dynamic. It would be a tablet that would be such a better fit in little hands than daddy’s or mommy’s iPad. It would be an iPad that kids can have all their games and fun math and reading apps on without cluttering daddy’s or mommy’s iPad. Kids who have to lug around their laptops from home to school and back could just carry their iPad. And little ones won’t need to squint their eyes anymore over the iPod touch or an old iPhone.
This can open up a whole new demographic as primary users of the device. If it comes in Q3, it could be the perfect holiday gift and could well become the toy of the year.
The iPad mini would actually be the bigger story than the iPad 3.