7-inch iPad

Zach Epstein, Boy Genius Report, reporting that Apple may soon release a 7” iPad:

Apple is once again rumored to be going against the wishes of late co-founder Steve Jobs as it prepares to launch a 7-inch version of its popular iPad tablet. While speaking with Computerworld, Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil said that Apple may be preparing to launch two new products following the imminent release of the iPad 3.

Color me extremely skeptical. I would bet the farm that Apple won’t release a 7” iPad - at least not anytime soon. Why? Firstly, Steve Jobs made it quite clear that Apple wasn’t interested in shipping one:

The reason we [won’t] make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit that price point, it’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software driven company we think about the software strategies first.

He later expounded on the point:

One would naturally think that 7-inch screens would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. But remember screen measurements are diagonal, so in fact it is only 45pc as large. That’s not sufficient for great tablet apps, in our opinion. It would be meaningless unless they included sandpaper to sand down your fingers to quarter their size. We’ve been testing interfaces and understand this stuff. There are limits before users can reliably tab, pinch or flick on a screen. Ten inches is the minimal space you need to create great tablet apps.

Despite analysts’ claims that there is large demand for mid-size tablets, the devices haven’t exactly taken off. Analysts further claim that Apple must now make a 7” iPad to compete with Amazon. In fact, the most successful 7” tablet thus far is likely Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Despite Amazon’s success, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the Fire had no noticeable effect on iPad sales.

We’ve looked at the data on a weekly basis after Amazon launched the Fire. There wasn’t an obvious effect on the numbers either plus nor minus. We’ve heard from customers who looked at the Fire and decided to buy an iPad, but whether that’s happening on a large basis, I don’t know. Looking at our data in the US, there was no obvious change in the data for what it’s worth.

Finally, analysts think that Tim Cook will steer Apple away from Steve Jobs’ vision for the company. One must only read Cook’s latest response to the possibility of a 7” iPad to see that isn’t true. In fact, he restated exactly what Jobs said two years ago:

The ecosystem for iPad is in a class by itself, we strongly believe in optimizing applications from day one to take advantage of the larger canvas.

Apple isn’t going to release something for the sake of entering a particular market. They have been clear that it doesn’t feel tablet software is optimized on screens less than 9.7”. They have been clear that testing showed a degraded user experience on these in-between devices. The market has shown that there really isn’t high demand for mid-range tablets. Most importantly, they have been consistent in their message amidst a leadership change.

It is true that Apple has often stated one thing (not making an iPad) while doing another down the line (making the iPad). However, I have a feeling this isn’t one of those times. The analysts who claim Apple has to release a 7” iPad are likely the same ones who said Apple had to release a netbook. In both cases, the devices simply do not match Apple’s goals as a company - namely to make great products and big profits.

All of that aside, what is the biggest indicator that one isn’t on the horizon? They already made one - in 2010 - and chose not to ship it.

The fact is, Apple already has a 7-inch iPad. They have had one of the smaller devices since they started making the 9.7-inch iPad that we have now.

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The next time someone says they believe Apple is beginning work on a 7-inch iPad, you will know they are wrong because it’s already done.

For Apple, size matters.