Though Apple hasn't confirmed (nor denied) the existence of the iPad mini, the flurry of excitement surrounding the release of such a device quite recently makes this a perfect time to discuss what features a small iPad could fix. It's not as if the iPad (the 3rd generation, that is) has a whole lot wrong with it at the moment - it's far and away the best selling tablet-form device on the market, not to mention the best-selling iPad in the history of the iPad line. But what we've got here is the idea of the iPad made more accessible by the masses - the public that, believe it or not, can't quite figure out why they'd pay $500 USD for a device that they might accidentally drop when they're getting up from the couch.
Three elements are at stake here - three features could be modified to a degree that would make everyone on the edge of buying an iPad pick one up in miniature form - then there's the school factor as well. What about cost? What about the ability to do work? Let's see what we can fiddle with here with a smaller form factor.
With a smaller iPad comes a lighter iPad. Again, not that the iPad as it exists now is entirely too heavy, but a tablet that wont bust through the screen of my MacBook Pro when I drop it from a foot above it on accident, that'd be better. Of course there's always the human factor in play - most devices would smash through a display if thrown hard enough.
But here's the clincher: if the iPad mini is significantly lighter and the size of a standard book, not a textbook, then the device would blast through the e-reader ranks. At that point it doesn't matter if any or all e-readers have next-generation technology, perfect e-ink displays and amazing readability, they're just not an iPad. The brand power of the Apple universe remains.
No matter how you spin it, there's a giant cross-section of people out there that either cannot afford an iPad or can't justify spending the amount of cash an iPad costs on a device that they don't necessarily need. Apple needs to attack this massive pile of people. With an iPad mini that cuts costs in a major way would open a door in the same way that the iPod touch does for those unwilling to go the extra mile to pick up an iPhone.
If Apple releases an iPad mini that costs $249.99, I will literally stay up until midnight whatever night they want me to stay up just so I can buy one. I wouldn't even necessarily keep it - I'm perfectly happy with my iPad 3 - but I know quite a few people in my life that wouldn't mind getting one as a gift, and at that price it's just not something I'm going to say no to.
Of course a much lower cost also opens the door for schools to grab hold of the tablet universe. We've spoken about low-cost tablets several times before, Android spearheading that movement because it's free to implement - but with Apple having an opportunity like this, it may be time to jump back into the education business.
3. Free Data
This is my wish, for the most part - and it's not like it's going to happen, but here's the case: it's already been done. Tablets already exist out there with "free" 3G internet connectivity, that connectivity subsidized by advertisements. Apple would never do that. What they would do - what they could do, someday, is limit the internet connectivity to the iTunes store and App Store exclusively. I'm not sure how that would work, but it has to - it will.
Have a peek at the timeline below to see additional iPad mini bits and pieces and see if you can put the puzzle together before the big event - if and when it happens!