iPad mini: Apple's super-slim Amazon Kindle killer

The reviews are already in and if you believe them it looks like Apple [AAPL] has a hit on its hands with its mythical 7/8-inch iPad mini: meanwhile a selection of the unsubstantiated rumors suggest the new tablet will be thinner with slightly lower specifications than its big brother, the iPad 3.

Apple's mini-iPad will be made of Win

Before we deal with unsubstantiated rumor let’s take a look at the current critical evaluation of the unsubstantiated, unreleased and unannounced new pocket-sized iPad thingy. A brief summary: it could be made of WIN:

"Win" definition according to the Online Slang Dictionary: "A good thing. Contrast with fail; a success; an advantage."

So who is saying this?

Computerworld's own Mike Elgan believes "small tablets will dominate the tablet market". Elgan's fairly convinced – he thinks that in two years: "iPad-sized tablets will represent a small minority of the market."

He argues that the iPad market (come on, with 61 percent market share it is an iPad market) has space for a 7-inch device. These things are cheaper, easy to carry and, because they don't cost as much people will be more willing to take them along to riskier events, such as sitting inside a tent in the rain at one of this so-called summer's UK music festivals. (OK, he didn't mention festivals, he cited more manly pursuits such as hiking, boating or strutting street-style through "disreputable" neighborhoods).

"The future belongs to small tablets like the Nexus 7 and the upcoming mini iPad," he writes.

Elgan's joined by Apple alumni, Jean-Louis Gassée, who reckons: "If Apple comes up with a smaller iPad later this year, it will be a killer product."

His report dismisses that infernally limiting group think mentality which cites Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' dismissive attitude toward 7-inch tablets as reason to dismiss these rumors. He argues that the environment has changed and, let's face it, Jobs was pretty good at telling truth hidden inside enigma. What Jobs was really saying was that the iPad is better than anything else on the market, and now usability is being improved within iOS 6 there's little to stop the company.

He predicts Apple will impact the 7/8-inch tablet market with a device that competes on price and features, observing: "If this cannibalises 10in iPad sales, no problem, better do it yourself than let Google, Amazon or Samsung do it."

So what can we expect?

Japan's Macotakara website informs us the smaller iPad will resemble anPod nano, at least in design. Production of the new tablet will take place at Foxconn's new plant in Brazil, the report explains.

If all the speculation is correct, the new iPad will be thinner than the Amazon Kindle Fire – it will also be 25 percent thinner than the current iPad.

A spate of recent Digitimes reports claim Apple already plans to update the existing iPad 3 to deal with so-called "overheating" issues. I don't think Digitimes has it right here, as the things it mentions in these reports marry well with the iPad mini speculation.

The site reported Apple is losing the dual-LED backlight in favour of a single LED model for the iPad 3. The display will use Sharp's indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) panel technology, Digitimes said, taking this detail from the Chinese-language Apple Daily site. The company also intends deploying new battery technology in iPad 3, the report claims.

I don't think this is what's going to happen with the iPad 3. I think Digitimes's souces have crossed wires and that these claims relate to the iPad mini. Apply these claims to that device and you end up with something super-thin with outstanding (best in the 7/8-inch class) battery life.

In previous episodes we learned the iPad mini will boast a non-Retina 1024×768 display as used in the v.1 and v.2 iPads. Last week I suggested Apple may pop older processors inside. I also speculated the product may support for 3G, and ship with 8GB memory.

These steps should lower manufacturing costs, so Apple continues to make a profit from the $200-$299 device.

It is important to note here that both the Amazon Fire and Nexus 7 are heavily subsidized. There's no business in these devices, other than that of making a grab for market share.

iPad is the tablet business

Topeka Capital analyst Brian White on Thursday estimated the iPad mini will cost between $250-$300: "That would lure certain consumers away from these competitors with an overall better experience that includes a much more robust ecosystem," he said.

"The bottom line is that it’s really all about the platform. At the moment, I don’t see anybody creating a unified and powerful enough platform that comes close to what Apple already has in the market," wrote Creative Strategies president, Tim Bajarin last week.

Thin, with great battery life and iPod nano style design, the 7-inch touch device (might it be called the iPod touch Pro?) will be a gateway into Apple's full App Store experience built to high standards and designed to look smashing.

Introduced around the same time as the iPhone 5 --probably , unless either device is delayed into 2013 -- Apple's going to sell millions of these things. Soon you won't see a Kindle on public transport and the tablet market will indeed be the iPad market.

What do you think?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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