Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Has Apple caused trouble for Microsoft with the mini?

Steve Jobs was not a fan of smaller-sized tablets, but it appears that his judgement was off in this regard. In domestic settings, the mini seems to work better.

Matt Baxter-Reynolds writes:

I had planned to keep both the iPad mini and my normal, full-sized iPad. In fact, I sold my full-sized iPad within a day of taking delivery of the mini. The mini just seemed to fit what I needed it for perfectly, whereas the full-sized iPad in comparison immediately felt faintly ridiculous.

It's telling that on the one hand a lot of products that seem to sell well in competition with the iPad are already on a "mini" scale:

  • Nexus 7 is a popular Android tablet with 7" screen.
  • The Kindle Fire tablets are each about that size.
  • Samsung has pre-announced an 8" Galaxy Note.

At the same time, it's also telling that smartphones not made by Apple tend to be getting bigger:

  • The Lumia 920, is a huge smartphone with a 4.5" screen.
  • The Galaxy S III has a 4.8" screen.
  • The Galaxy Note II has a 5.6" screen.

As ZDNet points out, there seems to be drift in screen sizes towards devices with screens that are -- for the sake of argument -- around 6" for a smartphone and around 8" for a tablet:

If the iPad mini is selling really well, it may have redefined the "natural" size of a domestic-use tablet as being a smaller device. Apple might have validated the previous decisions by Google to make the Nexus 7 small, and Amazon in making the Kindle Fire tablets small, even though I suspect those previous decisions had more to with the bill of materials than any sense as to the desires of the customer.

Microsoft may have a problem here. The smallest Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet that you can buy is "big tablet" sized and no one is making a small Windows 8 tablet. The problem with Microsoft's positioning of Windows in a post-PC world is its (understandable) obsession with Office and with keyboards. This makes life really difficult for an OEM trying to make a small tablet as you'd need to make a very small keyboard to go with it. You're then looking at something more like the now relatively ancient Toshiba Libretto, which might be a tough sell as today that looks an awful lot like a netbook.

Unless one of the OEMs does something amazingly bold, Windows tablets look like they're stuck in a 10" or greater world. That would mean that Microsoft has managed to accidentally entirely miss what seems like an obvious and logically-defensible market shift to smaller tablets in the domestic-use space.