This week, the itsyPad (as we like to call it) clearly spells doom for the iPad 2. And don't expect its aspect ratio to evolve toward widescreen. For that matter, don't expect a Retina display. But you'll have 24 models to choose from. It's all a symptom of Apple's defensive mindset.
You read it hear second.
"With this many models of the iPad mini ready in the system already, we must assume Apple intends to sell quite a few of them, one way or another." -- Chris Burns, SlashGear, who, based on rumors of "leaked" stock-keeping unit numbers, was able to lay bare Apple's previously hidden intentions for the itsyPad
itsyPad spells the end of iPad 2
Apple will phase out the current iPad 2, selling for $400, in order to create "clearer product tiers," according to Rob Cihra, a stock analyst with Evercore Partners. The idea, apparently, is that the small iPad expected to be unveiled next Tuesday will be the new, lower-priced entry point to the iPad family.
Cihra's predictions were in a note to investors, picked up by, among others, Neil Hughes of AppleInsider.
If Cihra has reasons for believing that, AppleInsider didn't explain them. The small iPad could be available with a wider range of storage options, and a cellular connectivity option, spanning price points from about $250 to $650. That overlaps the $400 iPad 2, but the latter still gives a lower price point, albeit with "older" technology, for the full-size tablet.
Cihra estimates that Apple will sell around 7 million of the small iPads in this last calendar quarter, and another 19 million full-size iPads.
itsyPad photo "leaks" show 4:3 aspect ratio, battery
Two sets of photos, purporting to show the itsyPad's LCD screen and battery, were published this week by ETrade Supply International, which deals in wireless repair parts supply and distribution.
"Today we have got from the electronic market some parts which are said to be iPad Mini parts," the blog post announced.
The LCD screen is "almost 8-inch" (diagonal). ESI says the aspect ratio, which some thought to be 16:9 widescreen format, is essentially 4:3 "as usual" for the iPad.
Somewhat oddly, the blog post didn't speculate on what the screen resolution would be. Others were happy to.
"[T]his could point to a 1024 x 768 resolution display, as found on the iPad 2," speculates Josh Smith at GottaBeMobile. "This would simplify app compatibility, allowing apps to run at native resolution, though developers may still need to adjust the size of some buttons to accommodate the smaller touch points."
The battery pictures include one with details on the specification. If this is accurate, the small iPad will have a 16.7-watthour battery running at 3.72 volts. That compares to the iPhone 5's 5.45-watthour battery.
The larger battery would be needed in part to run a larger screen, but that still leaves unsettled the question of whether the itsyPad will have an Apple Retina display, or opt for a lower resolution to keep costs down and differentiate the two tablet sizes.
itsyPad will forgo high-res Retina display
How can this be, you ask?
Technically, this is speculation not rumor, but The Rollup is including this because 1) so much of itsyPad rumoring is simply assumptions and 2) it's more interesting than most of the rumors.
Apple blogger John Gruber explains his thinking by pointing out first that each new iOS device has appeared first without a Retina display, which is then added in a later model.
And, he notes, mobile devices are all about trade-offs. "The flagship feature of the iPad (3) is its display," he writes. "The cost, in terms of trade-offs, is that it is thicker and heavier than the iPad 2 because that big gorgeous bright display requires so much more power. When designing anything, you pick one or two primary attributes and you compromise on everything else."
Forgoing the Retina display also distinguishes clearly between the small and full-size iPad products. "Retina displays are premium features; the new smaller iPad is not the premium model in the lineup," Gruber says. "You don't want to buy one because it doesn't have a retina display? OK, buy the regular iPad (3) that does."
itsyPad will be available in 24 models
To you, this listing may look like just a confusion of numbers and letters, but to the discerning eyes at AppleInsider, with help from a "person familiar with the inventory," this is gold, baby, gold.
What this actually depicts is the "full list of presumed 'iPad mini' product stock-keeping units, or SKUs, shows a total of 24 varieties," explains AppleInsider's Hughes. "Four different models will be offered -- described as P101, P103, P105 and P107 -- which one person familiar with the inventory said likely signifies four different storage capacities."
And from this deduction, or assumption, one can deduce still more. "The lineup could suggest that Apple plans to introduce an 8-gigabyte model that would serve as an entry-level model for the lower-priced 7.85-inch iPad," writes Hughes.
He notes further distinctions in the list: "GOOD," "BETTER" and "BEST." And these "could signify Wi-Fi-only, 3G, and 4G LTE models, respectively. Each model is also available in 'A' and 'B' variants, which likely identify color options of black and white."
It's amazing what you can tell by reading numbers and letters.
SlashGear's Chris Burns was certainly impressed, and was able to use the information to see still further, into Apple's deepest intentions. "With this many models of the iPad mini ready in the system already, we must assume Apple intends to sell quite a few of them, one way or another," Burns observed.
itsyPad shows that Apple is getting defensive
And losing its innovative mojo and also being pretty stupid. That's the summary of the argument put forward by this week by Richard Waters, West Coast managing editor for the Financial Times.
"A smaller iPad ... is best seen as the company shoring up the defences of the most powerful ecosystem the consumer technology world has seen," he argues. "The iPhone, which turned the handset world upside down, and the 10-inch iPad, which is starting to eat into the PC industry, were game-changers. But a seven-inch iPad will be disruptive of precisely nothing.
"Rather, it is a symptom of Apple's need to round out its product set and ward off rivals," Waters says.
But he seems a bit confused or at least confusing. If these are truly "needs," then Apple is behaving rationally and even laudably in rounding out its product line and warding off rivals. Just because the small iPad is not disruptive, doesn't it make it a bad product or symptomatic of a mindset that's locked into defensiveness.
Waters persists in the widely shared view that Apple reacts to the actions of those companies deemed to be its competitors. The Rollup's view is that there's very little evidence that actually shows this to be the case.
Apple introduced the iPod music player in November 2001, and quickly dominated this market segment. Since then, it's created an array of iPod sub-brands, each in different models, as Apple refined and extended the product. There's nothing that indicates this was a defensive strategy: It enabled Apple to sell a whole lot of iPods and maintain its market dominance. Concluding that this doesn't represent innovation seems entirely arbitrary.
By contrast, this kind of segmentation has so far not been the case for the iPhone. Apple's practice is to introduce the iPhone yearly, with different storage options and pricing, and create a lower-cost version by cutting the price of one model of the previous iPhone generation. Although more Android phones are sold than iOS phones, the iPhone remains the best-selling branded model.
"If the gadget that Tim Cook holds up next week is nothing more than a cheaper, smaller iPad, it will send a worrying message to his company's investors," worries Waters. "What will be next? Lower prices on 10-inch iPads as Amazon and others move upmarket? Cheaper, entry-level iPhones as growth moves to the emerging world?"
"But each new product that fails to change the game - an iPhone 5 that was merely good enough, a maps service that tarnished the company's reputation and forced an apology - is a reminder that there is no substitute for real innovation," Waters intones. "A small-screen iPad will do nothing to silence the doubters."
Waters and the other "doubters" assume what they conclude. A small iPad can't be innovative. So announcing a small iPad proves there's no innovation.