Apple unveiled the iPad mini yesterday in a flurry of press fawning and hyperbole. It’s a wonderful device, whether you care about the specs or not. Though anyone buying an iPad mini is more likely to be in the camp of people who don’t care about specs. They only care about apps.
So why did Apple bring out a mini iPad, or giant iPod Touch for the more skeptically inclined?
The first reason is fairly obvious, Apple want to target a growing sector of competitors who are gaining traction by releasing small, 7-inch devices that are effectively smart Kindles. Instead of gimping a device and releasing a fancy eBook reader with a browser, Apple released an iPad. A fully fledged product to sit in its line of iPads, much like the Mac mini sits in the Mac range. Same abilities, just in a smaller form factor for people who want to use their iPad on the bus.
Sure there was a focus on the new version of iBooks, but Apple also focused on other apps on the device to make sure people really understood that this is an iPad. Not a special case. The same way the Mac mini is a Mac and the iPod nano is an iPod.
The second reason is, perhaps, a little less obvious until you look at it. The only reason Apple wanted to keep producing the iPad 2 wasn’t to have an entry-level option for consumers. It was really for students, teachers & educators of all shapes, sizes and specialties. It’s a cheaper product, but it’s not suffering at the hands of the new iPad’s extra power.
And my god did Apple push into education in a big way. My former employer was involved in reselling these devices into business. They may as well have not talked to a single business and just focused on schools, because they were the ones who were really excited about iPad. And perhaps for the first time in an Apple devices history, the publishers were on board from the start. This was the true value of the iPad roadmap for the future… not just to revolutionise how we think about computers, but how we revolutionse education.
The iPad mini only extends that revolution. A smaller iPad is not only lighter and easier to hold with one hand, it’s easier to hold for kids full stop. Suddenly the interactive experience becomes more tantilising for them.
Furthermore, the $329 price tag has been seen as a little high for what the iPad mini is. I disagree. Apple is in the business of making a profit, and any company selling a tablet device at any size for $200 (or in that region) has all admitted that they’re taking a hit or just about breaking even. Including Amazon, who are reliant on you buying and consuming a lot of media to make a profit on their tablet devices. That’s just not Apples game.
What’s more is that in the world of education, Apple offers nice discounts to students, teachers and institutes. Discounts that operate on a fixed-point sliding scale that increases with volume. If a school were to kit itself out with iPad mini units, the cost of an iPad could easily drop to $250 depending on the number of units bought.
iPad mini is definitely geared towards expanding the product line in a way that hinders the competition. The people who are going to buy a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire instead of an iPad mini this Christmas are the kind of people who weren’t going to buy an iPad in the first place. For everyone else, who just wants a good device, they’re more than likely going to sway in favour of Apple now. Couple that with the mammoth growth in sales with educators, and an expected mammoth rise in that number after launch, you can see the roadmap for iPad really taking shape.
But you know what happens when a student gets a first-rate education via iPad mini? They pass it down to their siblings once their done. They buy a big iPad and stick with Macs through college & work. Then they start a business and only use Macs in that business. And so on. It’s a long cycle, but you don’t get yourself near a trillion dollar stock market evaluation without playing that kind of game.