With the New Unnumbered iPad or NUiP just weeks old, rumours of the Next New iPad or NNiP are still thin on the ground. But the iOSphere, like nature, abhors a vacuum.
This week, more speculation on a smaller iPad, and why Luddites with iPad 1 are still holding out for iPad 4.
"So, is a miniaturized iPad mini just a pipe dream or a valid proposition? Hard to tell. What we do know is that Apple likes to keep things simple." -- Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog.com, eschewing the chance to clarify whether the miniaturized mini (or mini mini) is a simple pipe dream or a simple valid proposition
iPad 4 will be bigger than iPhone 4S but smaller than iPad 3
You just can't keep a bad rumor down. In 2011, it was repeatedly rumored that either iPad 3 would have a smaller-than-9.7-inch screen or that Apple would release a second iPad with a smaller screen. That didn't happen, so one can start rumoring about it all over again.
The Wall Street Journal reported in February that "Apple Inc. is working with component suppliers in Asia to test a new tablet computer with a smaller screen, people familiar with the situation said, as it looks to broaden its product pipeline amid intensifying competition and maintain its dominant market share."
And now new rumors swirl. "Rumors of an iPad Mini Swirl in China," according to the headline at Gawker's video game website, Kotaku.com, which picked up a Chinese language post from a mainland site, NetEase. Although a Google translation of the original indicates that NetEase picked up the rumor from "Taiwan media reports."
"The Chinese rumor mill has hit full blast today claiming to have details about the imminent release of an iPad mini," the anonymous Kotaku post announced.
Somehow no one seems to have noticed that NetEase avoided mentioning the most important detail of all: namely the actual screen size of the Next New iPad (or NNiP).
Rollup took the Chinese text from the original NetEase post and ran it through Google Translate. As usual, GT leaves a lot of room for interpretation, such as this opening: "Apple intends to launch the iPad Mini news rumored long-standing, according to Taiwan media reports, the recent market came iPad Mini supply chain has been finalized, with the exception of David overseas, and the master also won the assembly order."
Just so, grasshopper.
Anyway, the iOSsphere is pretty sure what this means. "NetEase claimed that the device will be released around the third quarter of this year to 'counter attack' the upcoming Windows tablets," Kotaku reported breathlessly. Nothing like a counter-attack or even an attack to get the iOSphere's blood racing. "The report further claims that the devices will cost anywhere from US$249 to $299 and that there will be an initial 6 million units ready for launch."
"Apple is allegedly looking to launch a 7.85-inch iPad model sometime in the third quarter of this year," reveals Christian Zibreg, posting at iDownload Blog, and apparently pulling that screen size out of thin air.
No one can agree on how "mini" the iPad mini actually will be. Zibreg thinks it's 7.85; the Journal's February story said "about 8 inches"; and CNET's Josh Lowensohn repeated in late March a rumor originally posted on the Japanese Apple news site Macotakara that it was 5 inches.
The NetEase original and the hangers-on speculate that the smaller iPad is intended as a counter to the introduction of tablets later this year running Windows 8. According to Zibreg, "If the rumor is true, then the low-cost iPad mini is going after the low-to-mid-end of the tablet market." It's not clear why he makes that connection, or why Apple is worried about Windows 8 tablets, or for that matter how a "low-cost iPad mini" would actually benefit Apple.
Microsoft is working with a wide range of PC vendors that will presumably take the lessons they learned the hard way while trying to compete with the iPad and apply them to a new OS platform. The OS will support Intel and ARM-based processors, and clearly will offer the potential for low-end Windows 8 tablets; but also for high-end tablets. But that doesn't mean any of them will be come close to being as successful as iPad, or that Apple considers Windows 8 a threat that needs to be countered.
The most successful mini-tablet vendor seems to be Amazon with its Kindle product line. The company so far hasn't announced figures, but revealed in December 2011 that for the third week in a row "well over" 1 million of its then-new Kindle models had been sold. For that three-week period then, the total would be at least 3 million and as much as almost 6 million units. If sustained, and that might be a really big "if," Amazon possibly could match Apple's iPad total for the last quarter of 2011 -- 15.4 million.
But Apple sold 3 million iPad 3's in the first three days of sales in March. No one expects that pace to continue, but with each new iPad introduction, Apple is offering the previous model at a lower price, gradually creating a "low-end" product range without creating a separate low-end product, just as it has done with the iPhone.
"So, is a miniaturized iPad mini just a pipe dream or a valid proposition?" asks iDownload Blog's Zibreg. "Hard to tell. What we do know is that Apple likes to keep things simple."
There you have it.
iPad 1 users vow to wait for iPad 4 ... or not
Not yet announced, and the better part of 12 months away, unless you believe in the iPad mini due in the fall, the iPad 4 is prompting yearnings and hopes, not to mention ridicule, invective and sarcasm on user forums.
At the MacRumors forum, a user with the handle MacAttacka posted an innocuous-sounding question:
"Are there any 1st gen iPad owners who are still holding on to their original devices? I know most have upgraded to the 2nd and 3rd gen by now but I guess if it still does everything you want and you're happy why upgrade? Also for a lot of people money right now is tight so there's the question of prioritising [sic] your spend. Who is holding out for iPad 4?"
Overall, some first-generation iPadders were upgrading to the third-generation tablet, while others were standing pat. But nothing is simple on an iPad forum.
"Yep i still have my ipad 1 3g," posted William.Mantle. "Also have a 2 which work provides but the 3 was a big waste for me...Cant wait for ipad 4!" Another user said iPad 1 does everything he wants, even that is limited. "iPad 1 works great," irDigital01 wrote. "I just watch Netflix movies on it, read the news, play some games."
For some it's all about the ROI. "I have a ipad 1, I use it everyday, like it a lot and it still works fine, why would I want to buy a new one already or even specifically hold out for a new version?" asked H14. "I don't have an urge to replace it at all. It is only 2 years old, it has cost me a decent amount of money and I would like to enjoy that investment for as long as I reasonably can."
One user, Maziar, wants to hang onto his iPad 1 but Apple is making that tough to do. "I've been trying to hold to my iPad 1 but it's getting worse everyday," he wrote.
"Before iOS5, it was all good but when I installed iOS 5.1,it's become notably slower, random crashes in Safari and other apps and the OS itself isn't as smooth as before. So I'll probably get an iPad 3,but I'm waiting to see if newer OS updates will improve anything."
By contrast, Jackintosh took the leap from 1 to 3. "I couldn't imagine waiting for 4, especially as the technology has already advanced significantly since 1," he wrote. "But also, life's just too short to keeping waiting." Which sounds like Jacintosh is channeling AMC's "Mad Men" TV series -- about advertising executives in the 1950s -- and may have just written Apple's next ad campaign: "The new iPad. Because life's just too short to keep waiting."
The thread took on a darker tone as the happy iPad 1 users were seen as ... too happy.
"I really can't see anybody being happy with a 1 now," Macman45 posted. "I've had all three, and the latest incarnation blows the others away...Using a 1 now would not be a pleasant experience at all." Jordonogrady echoed that: "Your going to be waiting another year! Just buy a 3."
"I bought the iPad and didn't really find a use for it, so sold it," wrote tekno, in a post that sent a quiver through the iOSsphere. "The iPad still doesn't make me want to buy one, so I'll be waiting for the next iPad."
That didn't sit well with MacAttacka. "I dont get it," he wrote. "All iPads have been pretty much as useful as each other. What are you expecting in the iPad 4 to suddenly change this perception?"
"That's my point!" tekno shot back. "I found the iPad was too limiting and not useful enough. The [new?] iPad is the same. I'm hoping the next iPad will be different/more useful. One there's a tablet that I can truly intergrate into my life (rather than it being an odd gadget that does nothing my phone or laptop can't do better) then I'll get one."
He clearly hasn't grasped the Main Idea. "Looks like you'll be waiting a while!" replied jordanogrady. "I think you have missed the concept of the iPad all together?"
Tekno rattled off a list of things that would make the NNiP different/more useful including: a file system, mirroring his home folder on the tablet; having files sync automatically on his iPad and iMac; SD card slot; "the ability to stop the iPad telling sites its a mobile device and therefore loading mobile versions of websites"; more storage; and [gasp] a better GUI because "I still find the tiled app display very counter-intuitive."
Lacking these features, the iPad is pandering to the lowest of the lowest common denominator stupid user.
"Apples age old mantra of 'It Just Works' a saying that is revered by the Mac faithful in a near religious way, is at the core of all things iOS," wrote ixodes, who is probably not in the market for the NNiP. "Now having morphed into a mass market consumer electronics company, Apples all about profit & bragging rights first. The path to maximum profit taking leads right through the uneducated consumer. Mass market retailing is a numbers game where the company removes any challenge of having to read or learn. Just pickup & use their toys. That's the new Apple."
Another user stoutly defended the iPad's usefulness. "The iPad is the single most useful gadget I have ever owned," spiderman0616 wrote. "I can't imagine my life without it now. It has replaced so many other things in my life, and I'm not just talking other gadgets. My TVs, game consoles, computer, and even iPhone all get used WAY less since getting my iPad 2 (never had the first one). I no longer have any books, magazines, or newspapers littering my house or weighing down my backpack--they're all on my iPad. My laptop was sold long ago. My gaming PC tower is basically now a glorified media server and is needed to run a couple of very specialized music programs and to run nightly backups of all my important stuff."
A living breathing Post-PC native. It's easy to see spiderman0616 taking to the open road, sheltering under an iPad smartcover, the new iPad's Retina Display glowing with a video of a flickering fire so realistic it makes you feel warm. "Long story short," spiderman0616 continued, "the iPad has become such an integral part of my daily life, I can't imagine NOT upgrading it every year. It's easy to sell the old models for a fair price, so why not? The thought of keeping my iPad 2 and skipping the retina display and the nicer camera this year just seemed ridiculous...."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed
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