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A Tale of Two iPads

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 18, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Even before Apple actually announces a product, as a Mac and iOS device enthusiast, I tend to start imagining how I could actually use Apple's new awesomeness. The results aren't always as I hope.

A Tale of Two iPads

Often enough, I end up concluding that I don't need it -- like the 27-inch iMac and the Mac mini -- and sometimes, that I don't even want it.

Take the new iPod nano, for example. It's cool and better than ever, but it's not much better than my old iPod nano. And the iPod touch? Totally unnecessary when the go-to device of this size is an iPhone. But what about for kids? Answer: I don't have kids that need one.

Consequently, I was able to check out the specs of the new iPods, appreciate the colors, then ignore them completely.

Can't Ignore a New iPad Mini

When I think about the potential sales for an iOS-based mini-tablet in the 7-inch or so form factor (the existing iPad has a 9.7-inch screen), it's easy for me to imagine massive success. Serious sales. First of all, it will blow away the iPod touch as the go-to tablet device. The iPod touch is like a starter iPhone for children, but in a new touch-based app and mobile Web world, the screen is still small.

From a parent's perspective, if a kid gets an iPod touch, what's the point if the kid will age into an iPhone in a year or two? Or gain a parent's old iPhone to use when the parent upgrades? Lots of kids have iPod touches, but for some parents, it's just not the right device.

An iPad mini, though, is a different animal altogether: It would be bigger, so it wouldn't compete with an iPhone (or any other smartphone, for that matter). The gaming experience would be better, and the larger screen could even allow bigger touch targets for young children -- and an easier usage experience for grandparents.

As for video, kids in the back seat of a vehicle could see the screen if it were mounted on the back of a seat or in the console area, and there would be less jockeying (and fighting) for position to watch a movie on it after a long, hard vacation day.

If Apple releases an iPad mini in time for the holiday buying season, it'll sell millions of units in a very short time -- just because of these kid factors.

The iPad Mini Is For Adults, Too

But what about big kids? Not just fanboys, but adults? I have a first-generation Kindle Fire, and there are a few things I love about it. The first is size. Surprisingly, I don't see it as a competitor to a full-on iPad or full-size tablet device. No, the Kindle Fire is all about media consumption. Its wide screen is fantastic for movies, and when turned vertically, its the perfect size for reading novels. Email and Web browsing? It's serviceable, but nowhere near a size needed for workhorse action.

In addition to being great for media, it's the perfect packable size.

For instance, when I travel, I have tried to leave my MacBook at home and just take my iPad. If I don't have to do any real work, it's great! But once I have to write something, once I have to understand anything that's difficult, the iPad sucks. With an external keyboard, it's better, but it still sucks for my kind of work. I simply need a laptop with a full computing experience. Consequently, taking my 15-inch MacBook Pro along with an iPad is too redundant and heavy. Sure, I get big, glorious iPad apps on the iPad, and I can store and watch movies and TV, but the packability price is too high, especially when there's an iPhone already in my pocket. So I leave it behind.

Often enough, though, I'll throw in my Kindle Fire. Why? It's smaller, easier to pack. I can use it quickly and discreetly in an airport and on the plane, and I don't have to burn up my iPhone battery or compete for iPhone storage space with a bunch of movies or TV shows.

Also, if I'm traveling but shouldn't have to do any real work, the smaller form factor would let me poke at work much better than just my iPhone.


The iPad mini might actually be a fit for me.

And I think it'll be a fit for many others, as well, despite the initial, disparaging comments Steve Jobs made about the smaller form factor.

But I Already Have an iPad!

For millions of iPad owners, a new iPad mini won't offer much to be desired. The effort to sell the big iPad won't be worth it and the cost to acquire an extra device won't get through everyone's buying decision process. If I had a 27-inch iMac and did most of my work at a desk, I'd be quite happy with a full size iPad, even when traveling. So if I were this kind of consumer, I could ignore the iPad mini -- unless my iPad was stolen by my spouse or acquired by kids with sticky PB&J fingers. In which case, I could buy an iPad mini as a bait-and-switch tactic just to get my full-size iPad back.

Or get the get the iPad mini anyway and say to the rest of the family, "Look, you get to keep the big one, but this one is my work unit. No playing around on it. You get the big one. That one. The full-size iPad."

Of course, all of this is only possible if Apple can drive the price down far enough to make an iPad mini competitive with other 7-inch class tablets -- and therefore possible for consumers to wrap their heads around.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at

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