The speculation about the iPad mini has moved from the usual optomistic rumours to “fact””. Allegations have been made that Apple is “leaking”the news to leading newspapers in order to rain on Google’s Nexus 7 parade. If they are making that kind of effort, maybe Nexus is worth looking at.
The Nexus 7 has been described as a “game changer””. It has been described as being “far ahead”of existing android tablets with it’s high quality hardware and relatively inexpensive price. It is also the only tablet so far to ship with “Jelly Bean”, or Android 4.1.
In the last quarter of 2011, Android tablet shipments reached 39.1%, with iPad accounting for 58% of the market. Interestingly of the Android tablet sales, 40% of these were Amazon Fire or the Nook, which are eReaders. These devices use the 7 inch form factor and show that there is substantial consumer demand for the form factor.
Will we see 7 inches in the enterprise?
The Samsung Q1 UMPC, released in 2006 was a 7 inch tablet designed for enterprise use. It ran Windows XP and used a stylus and buttons for cursor manipulation. Like it’s competiors and successors, the lack of tablet based applications prevented widespread adoption. Interestingly though it’s portability and battery life made it popular with field workers.
Perhaps this will be the case for the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini.
According to an article in CIO Magazine, Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit and an iOS developer, says Not only will the iPad mini have a smaller, eye-straining screen, It probably won’t have a Retina display, either.”
Wiens, though, believes that the iPad mini will be used extensively in the field by service technicians, where mobility trumps everything else. Such employees don’t have much use for fancy Retina displays.
“With service manuals, you need to see pictures to do repairs, which makes the iPad much more usable than the iPhone,” Wiens says. “Yet you might be in tight places, so something in between would be reasonable.”
In the same article Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi says that a small tablet probably won’t have much of an impact on the enterprise. Milanesi covers the tablet market at Gartner and is very familiar with small tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, which she says are too small to get much work done.
Milanesi says a 7-inch Apple tablet, along with a cheap price point, will resonate with consumers, which somewhat undermines her anti-enterprise adoption argument. The thinking goes: If an iPad mini is a consumer hit, then it will likely ride BYOD to the enterprise anyway.
iPad software won’t work at 7 inches
There are fears that scaled down iPad applications wont work well with the new form factor. This is unlikely, considering the efforts developers already go to support multiple form factors on other platforms.
Useful productivity applications have been made to work on smartphones, so enterprise applications that use the new form factor (rather than just scaling down 10 inch) will adapt the new form factor.
For those that believe you can’t fit enough text on this screen, keep in mind that this form factor is already the leading size for eReaders.
The future is bright for the 7 inch form factor. Its affordabilty and ubitquity in the consumer market will mean it’s adoption into enterprise is inevitable. The software applications that win will be those that take advantage of this “mid” screen size.