A Little Apple Tablet Could Mean Big Trouble for Rivals
If Apple does deliver a 7-inch iPad, the company could rule the market for tablet devices in both the 7-inch form factor and the larger iPad design. With the company's ecosystem and customer base in place, the popular devices on the market now would have a tough time selling next to an Apple product, especially for customers who already use an iPhone or Mac computer, said Creative Strategies' Ben Bajarin.
07/18/12 5:00 AM PT
The iPad mini rumor mill received another heavy helping of grist recently when The New York Times reported that it too has spoken with sources who say a 7-inch tablet is on the way from Cupertino.
Presently, Apple's 9.7-inch iPad is the most popular tablet on the market, but it faces increased competition from smaller, more affordable devices like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's new Nexus 7, a tablet that will start shipping Friday.
The more affordable devices are popular among consumers looking for a portable piece of hardware that aren't quite as powerful as a full-sized iPad but can perform as e-readers or movie players, said Ben Bajarin, director and founder of Creative Strategies. Because of that, the design is more of an evolution of the iPod or iPhone than it is the downgrade of a tablet, he said, and it's unlikely to make a significant dent in full-sized iPad sales.
"I don't expect much of a dent in iPad sales since I am convinced the customer for an iPad is different than one that will want a 7-inch tablet," he said. "The 7-inch is more a media and entertainment device, while the iPad is more a general purpose tablet that can edge into notebook use cases."
If that's the case, Apple could rule the market for tablet devices in both the 7-inch form factor and the larger iPad design. With the company's ecosystem and customer base in place, Bajarin noted, the popular devices on the market now would have a tough time selling next to an Apple product, especially for customers who already use an iPhone or Mac computer.
"I think the Fire and Google Nexus 7 would have a hard time competing with the iPad mini," said Bajarin.
Apple might be so confident on that point that it would demand a slightly higher price than its Android and Amazon competitors, said Bajarin, assuming that its customers would be willing to spend extra for the Apple-branded product.
"I do not think Apple would price it at $199," he said. "I think they would command a premium with the experience and probably go something like $249 or higher. This won't be an issue, as the Apple offering has many differentiating points that consumers are happy to pay for."
Backtracking on Green Initiatives
Also this week, Apple backtracked on an announcement it made earlier in the month that it would withdraw its products from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). The move to withdraw sparked outrage from green advocacy groups.
But later, in a letter to customers, Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering at the company, called the move a "mistake" and said its relationship with EPEAT has only grown stronger because of the experience. EPEAT also addressed the matter, acknowledging it has been difficult to maintain standards in the constantly evolving tech world, but that going forward it will work to make sure its standards are in line with the latest innovations.
Consumer advocacy groups are calling Apple's change in policy a victory.
"Apple's reversal demonstrates that it seriously miscalculated the amount of blowback it would get from consumers," Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, founder and executive director of SumOfUs, told MacNewsWorld, "And more importantly it's a victory for ethical consumers and for the planet."
But like many advances in sustainable business practices, Apple and its peers in the tech world have a long way to go before they can put a green stamp of approval on all its products, she said.
"This victory is tempered by the reality that Apple is moving the entire industry in the direction of products that are less and less easy to repair and recycle," she said. "That's why Apple wanted to leave EPEAT, and it inevitably means more e-waste. It's simply not sustainable to live in a world of 7 billion people where the norm is to buy brand-new devices every year or two and then throw them away. Apple and the rest of the industry have a responsibility to figure out a more sustainable path."
Apple did not respond to our request for comment.