The likely journey from Steve Jobs' initial repudiation
There've been reports that Jobs blessed the iPad Mini before he died. Whether that's a true revelation or an invented blessing from the grave to justify the turnabout, I don't know. I do know that as passionate and definitive as Jobs could be on his beliefs, he was fully capable of changing his mind.
For example, when he debuted the initial iPhone, he stated flat out that it would not run native apps because Web apps were the better solution. Six months later, he unveiled the iPhone SDK for creating native iOS apps. Web apps didn't deliver on their promise, and frankly, they still don't four years later. Jobs came to the eminently rational decision and changed his mind to support something that actually would work and, of course, make Apple money. Not that he stated that publicly -- he just did it, and his past position no longer mattered.
I can very easily see Jobs and/or Apple's senior leadership coming to the same conclusion after witnessing the warm initial reaction to the first-generation Kindle Fire and realizing its failure was about its poor quality and user experience, not about its fundamental concept -- especially given the iPad Mini doesn't go the "tweener" route that Jobs publicly slammed.
Google, which tends to copy others, probably started the Nexus 7 effort after the Kindle Fire was announced. Although better than the Kindle Fire, it has odd limitations, such as a USB port that doesn't support the full capabilities of a "real" Android tablet; that's why you can't use a USB-to-MHL or USB-to-HDMI cable to get video-out. Google, after all, has no compunction about delivering half-baked products; the vast majority of its Web services are formally in beta, and as experiments, they have no long-term commitments. We're just beta testers in Google's world.
That casual approach to product releases is more difficult to carry off in hardware, which can't be so easily updated, as we saw with Google's Nexus Q copy of the Apple TV -- a product so bad that Google canceled its release days before its promised ship date. But in its "ship before you test" mentality, Google had made it a centerpiece of its Google I/O conference this spring and gave units to thousands of developers and product reviewers, who shared their "feedback" widely. I can attest how bad it was, as I received one to test.
I suspect Apple waited a bit longer to get serious about the iPad Mini, to see the actual market reaction. But I also have no doubt Apple has had iPad Mini prototypes for years; this is a company that tries out all sorts of technologies and keeps them on the back burner until the time is right, even if that is years later. In fact, the iPad and iPhone were two such products.
Will the iPad Mini take off in the market? Probably. iTunes is widely entrenched among PC users, not just Mac and iOS users. It'll cost $329 to $659 when it becomes available for order on Friday and ships Nov. 2, an easy gift to digital-entertainment-savvy family members. (The highest-priced models have LTE cellular radios.) Meanwhile, the "regular" iPad will continue on its journey to one day replacing a laptop PC and, for the time being, serve as a very useful companion PC.
This article, "The iPad Mini: It's all about iTunes," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.