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Interpreting the ‘Mini-iPad’ Buzz

The last time {complink 379|Apple Inc.} was rumored to be releasing a mini-iPad, we got the “new iPad” (aka iPad 3). (See: Behind Apple’s Alleged Move to Small Screens.)

Net result: same size, better display.

A new spate of mini-iPad reports is surfacing, fueling speculation behind Apple's strategy. Is it competing with Microsoft's Surface, Google's Nexus, Amazon's Kindle Fire, or Samsung's Galaxy smartphones? Is Apple providing a broader tablet array for its already-converted iFans? Or is trying to reach a price point that won't discourage new buyers when the next “new” iPad (iPad 4?) renders the last “new” iPad (iPad 3) obsolete?

The answer is in the screen, which has as much speculation behind it as the mini-iPad itself.

Various media reports have LG Display, AU Optronics, or Sharp manufacturing the mini's display. Notably absent is Samsung, which is the largest manufacturer of the Retina display, featured in the iPad 3. (LG and Sharp manufacture limited quantities of the Retina.)

Here's what we know about LG Display and AU: they focus primarily on LCD screens and tend to be price leaders in the LCD screen market. Sharp, which has been struggling, recently received a large cash infusion from Foxconn Electronics, which also manufactures Apple's smartphones and iPads. Sharp is also likely to be cost competitive: Foxconn is a vertically integrated company, which means its manufacturing arm gets preferred pricing from its component businesses. I doubt that Sharp will be any different.

Most of the speculation around the mini-iPad is a price point that will cause its competitors apoplexy (in other words, less than $500 — much less). If AU, LG, or Sharp (or all three) are making the screens — the single most expensive component on any tablet, smartphone, or mobile device — look for a mini priced below the iPad. LCD is still a great technology and only gets better as screens get smaller.

Net result: smaller size, decent display.

Also more affordable.

11 comments on “Interpreting the ‘Mini-iPad’ Buzz

  1. bolaji ojo
    July 5, 2012

    Barb, If Apple comes out with a “mini-iPad” it would also be taking a leaf from several of its competitors. It may also signal that rivals are beating it slowly at its own game.

  2. FLYINGSCOT
    July 6, 2012

    Hi Barb.  Sounds to me that it might be a lesser product in terms of features, quality and price. I hope it has a one year warranty.

  3. mfbertozzi
    July 6, 2012

    That trend is bringing to my mind what happened in the area of “mini”, for example for netbook; it seems results in terms of profit was not so good, but in such way it open the doors to new competitors making the market more excited. But if Samsung has decided to not play in the sector, I am sure there is a good reason for explaining it.

  4. Cryptoman
    July 6, 2012

    With the iPad mini, Apple is probably planning to slow down Samsung's successful upward trend on its similar sized tablet on the market. Given that porting the iOS to a smaller tablet should not be a big problem, this is a great opportunity for Apple to establish its presence in the small tablet market. However, small screen size will mean that the existing iPad applications will need to be redesigned to support the new small screen size and therefore the adoption of the new mini may take some time until there is a good base of applications available for it. I think having a cheaper and smaller version of the iPad is a good move and I can see a good market for it.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 6, 2012

    I agree that if the mini comes in at a lower price point, Apple is responding to the market rather than leading it. That typically isn't Apple's strategy. So I wonder, if, similar to the iPad 3, something unexpected will happen with the mini. If so, what will that be?

  6. bolaji ojo
    July 6, 2012

    The tablet PC market is going to be in a flux for a while. While companies like HP have temporarily given up, others like RIM are still keeping a toe in while new ones are diving in with varying platform offerings. The mini-iPad, if/when Apple launches it, will further divide the market. It will be positioned against devices from so many other companies and may even end up eroding sales of the original iPad.

    Aside from Apple, it's going to be a while before we know who will win and lose here.

  7. t.alex
    July 6, 2012

    App developers will have a bit of problem with all the screen layout issues especially when they want to do apps that can run on all devices. This has been a trouble for android developers.

  8. Adeniji Kayode
    July 9, 2012

    I agree with you on that, Its just that what effect will this have on Apple,s competitors and competition among other brands

  9. Mr. Roques
    July 11, 2012

    Well, its definitely more work for developers. But if Apple releases a device with a 5.55″ screen, they will go nuts but end up developing a new app. They can't afford to miss out.

    I think I heard Jobs (?) say that they woudn't compromise performance for price, etc. Do you think that's about to change?

  10. t.alex
    July 14, 2012

    I don't think that will change soon, unless technology can be improved much more without significant cost.

  11. Mr. Roques
    August 25, 2012

    Well, we'll have to wait and see but I do belive Apple will release a smaller iPad that can target the Fire and Nexus!

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