iPad Mini And Its Role In The iOS Ecosystem


26.10.2012

iPad Mini And Its Role In The iOS Ecosystem

As you probably know the iPad Mini is the latest release from Apple and the team based in Cupertino, CA. The iPad Mini is Apple’s attempt to penetrate a market that was, until now, uninteresting to them.

The 7-inch tablet market had become to grow in late 2011, when Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire, an affordable Android-powered tablet that quickly raised to the top of the slates running on Google’s mobile operating system. Thanks to the success of Kindle Fire, Amazon managed to bite a chunk of Apple’s tablet market share pie.

Google figured out that the 7-inch segment is a huge opportunity, therefore, in June 2012 it introduced the Nexus 7, which later went on sale for $200.

With two popular tablets activating on the market, the Nexus 7 and, later, Kindle Fire HD, Apple was bond to respond to the threats coming from Android. The response is the iPad Mini, an iOS 6-powered tablet that has a starting price of $329.

But how important is the iPad Mini for the iOS ecosystem. I will start by trying to explain what the tech enthusiasts and publications understand by the term of ecosystem.

Well, the ecosystem as a whole is made of the operating system, the apps in the dedicated store, and all the devices running on that particular operating system. For Apple we have iOS, App Store + iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad.

As we speak there are several devices running on iOS available on the market: iPod Touch 4th gen, iPod Touch 5th gen, iPhone 4 8 GB; iPhone 4S 16, 32, or 64 GB, iPhone 5 16, 32 or 64 GB, iPad 2 16 GB, and iPad 3 (or The New iPad) 16, 32, 64 GB WiFi-only or WiFi + 4G.

iPad 4 and iPad Mini will debut on November 2nd, with countries like US, UK, France, Germany, Italy or Canada in the first wave.

You can see that it’s a big difference between iPhone 5 and iPad – 4 inch vs 9.7-inch. In March 2012, when Tim Cook’s slides during a press conference showed that there were over 225,000 applications optimized for iPad and iPad 2, two tablets with a display resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels. iPad 3 and now iPad 4 are bringing Retina Display and a new resolution in the iOS ecosystem: 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.

When iPad Mini was officially announced it was reported there were over 275,000 applications optimized for iPad. Let’s do the math. About 50,000 iPad apps were introduced in App Store since March, and I don’t know how many of them come with Retina Display support. Several thousands maybe, but definitely not 50,000.

App Store is a service that generates a lot of income for the Cupertino-based company, therefore Apple is very careful not to fragmentate it too much, especially the resolutions. Imagine how difficult it would be for the developers to optimize their apps for a new resolution each time Apple launched a new device. That’s why Apple has chosen not to make the iPhone 5 wider, but only taller, bringing a resolution of 1,160 x 640 instead of 940 x 640 (iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S).

Maybe this how the idea of an iPad Mini was born, after all, a smaller tablet with 1,024 x 768 pixels. Personally, I find the resolution to low for 7.9 inches, but at least the applications are already optimized for this type of resolution.

In my opinion, another problem about the iPad Mini is the price. The new tablet is meant to compete against Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD which both have a starting price of $199. So, Apple, if you want to compete against low-cost tablets, how come that you set the starting price of your little toy at $329. Not to mention that the 64 GB model with WiFi and LTE has a price tag of $659.

This is not an affordable tablet capable of competing against Nexus 7, but rather a device that generates smaller profits on sale (compared to iPad 3 or iPhone 5), and capable of monetizing the 1,024 x 768 pixels content already available in App Store.

And now we come and ask: what is the iPad Mini’s role in the iOS ecosystem?

It might be an intermediary device meant to fill the niche between iPhone 5 and iPad 3 or iPad 4, between 4 and 9.7 inches. It’s obvious that the 7-inch table segment has grown faster than the one occupied by the 10-inch tablets. The 7-inch slates are portable and there are customers out there that got used to them and would choose a 300 – 400 grams gadget over one that weighs in 600 – 700 grams. They are easier to slip in your coat pocket, backpack or purse.

The over 250,000 apps in Apps Store (without the ones for Retina Display) for tablets with 1,024 x 768 pixels resolution are now perfect for the fresh owners of the iPad Mini. New owners means more app purchases.

The iPad Mini is a 7.9-inch premium wannabe tablet. Most of the tablets with displays lower than 8 inches do not fit in the premium segment, but go towards low-cost. I am talking about those that are very popular such as Kindle Fire, and Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD are other two candidates. Google Nexus 7 disappoints for two reasons: the internal storage is limited to 16 GB and it doesn’t come with 3G or 4G. I must mention though that the iPad Mini’s resolution is way below what the competition offers. Moreover, Apple chose to implement a CPU and a GPU that were decent last year.

But Apple chose to fit a high-end camera on iPad Mini; the premium wannabe I was mentioning earlier. Most of the 7 and 8 inch tablets were designed to be chip, and many of the manufacturers have ignored this feature. The iPad Mini si also thinner and lighter than the competition, but isn’t all about the looks. I am also curious about the battery life.

Summing up, Apple had a look at the market and saw what the customers want. I am certain that the iPad Mini will be a sales success. The price of $329 also leaves some room for profit, as I don’t think that the production cost of the iPad Mini WiFi-only 16 GB is above $200. The parts aren’t new, therefore Apple didn’t invest too much in research. You are probably aware that Apple earns more from hardware (smartphones, tablets and PCs) than from software, even though the company’s officials said that over $6.5 billion were payed to developers. Now learn that %30 of any app sold in App Store goes to Apple.

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