The possible launch of an iPad Mini is one of the most debated topic on the internet right now, including this site. However, there is one important reason why Apple may not produced such a device. Apple’s late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs trashed 7 inch tablets as being useless and DOA. Engadget has published an audio of Steve’s infamous rant on Apple 2010 4th Quarter conference call. In it he describes the 7 inch form factor as been too small to provide and engaging experience, suggesting that prospective buyers would need to file their fingers down with sand paper to have a good experience.
Hence, it’s not surprising that people remain very sceptical of Apple producing such a product. On the contrary, Joel Bernstein posits a very good theory as to why the iPad mini might not be as useless as Steve Jobs initially thought:
The iPad has always had a logical resolution of 768×1024, a 9.7″ (diagonal) screen, and a logical DPI (points per linear inch) of 132.
The iPhone and iPod touch have always had a logical resolution of 320×480, a 3.5″ (diagonal) screen, and a logical DPI of 163.
The iOS Human Interface Guidelines say “The screen size of iOS-based devices might vary, but the average size of a fingertip does not. Regardless of the device your app runs on, following these guidelines ensures that people can comfortably use your app. Give tappable elements in your application a target area of about 44 x 44 points.”
If the iPad’s screen were scaled to 163 DPI, it would be 7.85″ diagonally. This is suspiciously close to the 7″ iPad rumors circulating. So, through brilliant planning or sheer luck, Apple is in a rare position to modify the DPI of a touchscreen device without significantly harming usability. There are a few types of apps that would be negatively affected, and that would require some minor tweaks if the DPI changed.
Another factor is that Apple has recently launched its iBook Author and Textbook initiative. The Textbooks are targeting children and young people, majority of whom would not have with big fingers. Hence there would be no need for filing.
The argument for the iPad mini gets stronger when you consider what Tim Cook said recently. During his interview at D10 (15 minutes mark on full video) Tim Cook became very animated when describing one of Steve Jobs’ special gift. He stated that Steve was brilliant at ‘flipping’ his views on ideas and would argued effectively for something that he was initially opposing.
This now brings us to the premise this article. Perhaps, Tim Cook was preparing the public for what is to come. Maybe Steve has done one of his famous ‘flips’ on the iPad mini idea and thought it was a brilliant idea after-all.
I guess we would all have to wait and see what happens later this year.