As widely expected, Apple used its Oct. 23 event to roll out the iPad Mini. However, few tech pundits thought that the company would accompany that smaller tablet with new laptops, desktops, and a refreshed full-size iPad—an updated hardware portfolio just as the holiday shopping season begins in earnest.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and marketing head Phil Schiller did all the talking onstage. First, they revealed a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with a high-resolution Retina Display. Then, they moved to the Mac Mini (“You knew there’d be something called ‘mini’ at this presentation, didn’t you?” he joked with the audience) and a thinner next-generation iMac.
After Cook announced that some 100 million iPads have sold worldwide, Schiller unveiled the fourth-generation iPad with an A6x chip, boosted LTE support, 5-megapixel rear camera, and faster Wi-Fi. Pricing starts at $499 for the 16GB model.
Then Schiller whipped the curtain back from the iPad Mini. “This isn’t a shrunken-down iPad,” he told the audience, although it looked like exactly that: 7.9 inches on the diagonal (with the same 1024 x 768 resolution of the full-sized iPad) with a 7.2mm aluminum body. It is 23 percent thinner than the full-size iPad, as well as 53 percent lighter, with 10 hours’ worth of battery life.
The iPad Mini’s pricing starts at $329 for the Wi-Fi-only, 16GB model—a premium over Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, its two main competitors in the smaller-tablet category. Apple is obviously betting that people will pay a premium for the iOS experience and the Apple brand name.
Schiller spent a hefty part of his iPad Mini presentation comparing it to the Nexus 7, demonstrating in side-by-side comparisons how Apple’s tiny tablet has a larger screen than Google’s offering.
But the real issue could be how Apple, with its plethora of new screens, manages to avoid some of the fragmentation issues facing the Google Android ecosystem. A year before he died, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs alluded to the issue in a now-infamous conference call with media and analysts, telling them: “We think about software strategies first, as we know that software developers aren’t going to deal well with all these different-size products.”
By offering a smaller iPad, Apple fills a gap in its lineup and challenges Google and Amazon from a new direction. But it might make life a little bit more difficult for app developers and others who deal with the software side of iOS.