Back when Apple first unveiled the iPad, we all made sanitary towel jokes. Now it appears we might have to redub the existing models as maxiPads.
Yep, once again the rumors of a smaller model are doing the rounds. This time it’s Bloomberg that’s spoken to the “people with knowledge of the plans” who “asked not to be identified.” (These folk crop up almost as often as that guy who always finds corpses while walking his dog early in the morning.)
The claim this time is of a device with a 7 to 8 inch screen. The Wall Street Journal, which says component manufacturers in Asia have been told to get ready to mass produce, puts it more explicitly at under 8 inches.
It appears screen size won’t be the only money-saving exercise: supposedly the screen will be closer to the original model rather than the high-resolution “retina” display.
In theory the move makes a lot of business sense. Priced sensibly, a 7 inch iPad could compete with some of the big-name Android brands such as those backed by Google and Amazon. Given those are at the supposed sweet spot of $199, Apple could probably get people to stretch for $249 and pick up those for whom the existing iPads are just too costly.
If the rumors prove correct, the new device will be a big test of how much of the iPad’s success is marketing and style, and how much is functionality. For me, the screen size is one of the most underrated and important features of the iPad: big enough that you aren’t squinting or scrolling, small enough to hold in one hand and carry about without thinking. At seven inches, there’s a risk a new iPad would feel like a compromise and simply feel like a giant iPod touch.
Given Steve Jobs was said to have been skeptical about making the iPad any smaller, a new model could also be a test of how the company fares without him and, in hindsight, whether his tight control was always for the best, or unnecessarily restricted risk-taking.