Cheaper and better is better
When Hewlett-Packard killed its TouchPad tablet earlier this year, it held a fire sale, pricing the WebOS-based tablets at $99. They flew off the shelves. You can disagree about the reasons HP failed to make a go of the TouchPad, but it's impossible to ignore evidence of a nascent market for cheaper tablets. If an inexpensive tablet had the cachet of Apple, think of how popular it could be.
How cheap would an iPad Mini have to be? Given the price of competitors like the new Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire, both going for $200, Apple could price a 7- to 8-inch tablet at $225 or $250 and still make a good profit while attracting lots of folks who can't afford to spend $500 or more on a full-size iPad. We don't yet know if Cook shares the creative genius of Jobs, but we do know that the new CEO is a master of supply chain logistics and could surely find the manufacturing partners to construct a tablet at that price point.
A mini tablet with more screen space
Some folks might argue that a small version of the iPad wouldn't offer a decent enough experience to sell well or that the $200 iPod Touch already fills the niche for Apple. I disagree. A small tablet is ideal for consuming content, whether it's an e-book, a movie, a magazine, or an article on a favorite website -- which Apple has made easier to do on reduced screens with its Reader capability in Safari. But at 7.8 inches or so (the rumored size of the rumored iPad Mini), it would also be a lot easier on the hands and eyes than a smartphone for chores like email and light note-taking. And as Matthew Panzarino of the Next Web points out, 7.8 inches along the diagonal would give the iPad Mini a lot more screen real estate (measured in square centimeters) than the 7-inch Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire.
Apple's vast store of apps is a huge selling point, and scaling them down a bit from iPad size would not be a terribly difficult chore for developers tempted by a larger addressable market. After all, Apple's iOS SDK is designed for creating apps that work at multiple screen sizes: 9.7 inches for iPads and 3.5 inches for iPhones and iPod Touches.
We're always hearing about the next iPad killer, and we've seen how poorly that's worked out for the Kindle Fire. Users want cheap, but they also want good. The iPad Mini would fit that bill, while giving Apple a nuclear missile to toss at Google and Amazon.com.
This article, "How Apple could own the 7-inch tablet market, too," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.