An iPad Mini Epiphany

by John Kirk   |   November 8th, 2012

So, I’m reading this article entitled: “Physicians excited about lab coat pocket-ability of Apple’s iPad mini” and I suddenly have an epiphany. Or, at least, a mini-ephiphany. Or indigestion. Not exactly sure which.

Anyway, it occurs to me as I’m reading this article that there is an entire sector of computing where the iPad, in general, and the newly minted iPad Mini, in particular, have no competition. They OWN this market.

From the article:

Epocrates, a maker of point-of-care applications for medical professionals, gathered data from 48 different physicians that use its products. One in three of those physicians said they are planning to purchase an iPad mini due to its convenient small size.

And earlier this year, one survey found that more than a quarter of European doctors use an iPad at work, while another 40 percent said they planned to buy an iPad within six months.

Emphasis added

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Try this thought experiment:

Picture a doctor walking from patient to patient, either in their private practice or in a hospital setting. Picture them inputing data into an iPad or using the iPad to share information with their patients.

Now picture them holding the iPad Mini in one hand and doing the same kinds of things…then slipping the iPad Mini into thier coat pocket.

An easy picture, no? The picture of the iPad works, but the picture of the iPad Mini – held in a single hand – just feels right, at least to me.

A Smaller Piece Of The Puzzle That Fits In More Places

In July, I wrote an article entitled: “The PC is the Titanic and the Tablet is the Iceberg. Any Questions?” The purpose of that article was to show how the tablet would undercut the PC because many of the things that the tablet did well, the PC did poorly or not at all. I went back and re-visted that article with the iPad Mini in mind.

Picture this:

STANDING:
Tablets excel at working while you are standing. The iPad Mini would do most of those tasks even better. Tasks done by matre d’s, inventory takers, tour guides, concierges, face-to-face service providers and order takers of every kind, would benefit from the use of the iPad Mini.

ROOM TO ROOM, DOOR TO DOOR AND REMOTE LOCATIONS:
Tablets excel at working when one has to move and stop and move yet again. The iPad Mini would do those tasks even better. Car dealerships, like Mercedes Benz, are giving tablets to their salespeople. European doctors are rapidly taking to the tablet. Service technicians at Siemens Energy are using tablets while servicing power installations. Scientists are using tablets during field research. Nurses, realtors, journalists, park rangers, medical technicians…the list of users and uses is nearly endless. They would all benefit from the use of an iPad Mini.

SALES:
If you’re in Sales, you’re into Tablets. For some salespeople, the larger iPad would make a better presentation device. For many others – and perhaps most others – the iPad Mini would do the job even better. Whether you’re traveling or standing or presenting or taking an order and acquiring a signature – tablets are a salesperson’s best friend. An iPad Mini would be more like a bosom buddy.

KIOSKS:
While the PC makes for a terrible Kiosk, the tablet is almost ideally suited to the task. Tablets as Kiosks are making their presence known in places as diverse as malls, taxi cabs, hospitals, the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles, and the FastPass lanes at Disney World. I think the larger sized tablet is more appropriate for a Kiosk that the iPad Mini. But the iPad Mini would be perfect for smaller spaces such as in car dashboards, taxi cabs, banks, and such.

LOANERS:
Tablets are starting to show up as “loaners” that are lent out as entertainment devices. They’re being purchased by libraries. Airplanes run by Singapore Airlines and Qantas use them as in-flight entertainment devices. Airports like New York’s LaGuardia, Minneapolis-St. Paul International and Toronto Pearson International, lend them out to waiting passengers. The tablet is ideally suited for the task. It is light, it is portable, it is versatile, it displays content beautifully and it is sublimely easy to use. If the larger size tablet is ideal, then the iPad Mini is a dream come true.

EDUCATION:
PCs in schools are mostly relegated to teachers and computer labs. Tablets live in the classroom and they reside in the hands of the students. No one wants to learn HOW to use computers anymore. Students simply want to use computers to help them learn.

The tablet is starting to take educational institutions by storm. It acts as an electronic blackboard, as a digital textbook and as an interactive textbook.

It’s at the K-12 level (the San Diego School district just ordered 26,000) and at the Universities (Adams Center for Teaching and Learning at Abilene Christian University, George Fox University, North Carolina State University in Raleigh). Tablets are even finding their way into the top-tier high schools in China.

Some schools have even reported a 10% improvement in the exam scores of students who use tablets in lieu or paper books.

We’ll have to see how the education market sorts itself out. But for smaller children at least, the smaller size of the iPad Mini seems like the perfect teaching tool.

The Competition Comes Up Small

Now try to picture any of the above tasks being done with an Amzaon Kindle Fire, Google Nexus 7, or Microsoft Surface? More difficult, right?

— The Amazon Kindle Fire has little chance because it has no tablet optimized apps and because the tablet is designed to pull the user into their store.

— Nexus has little chane because it has no tablet optimized apps and because it relies on content and ad sales in order to make money.

— Windows Surface has little chance…yet.

Microsoft is very good at ecosystem, but their tablet offerings are currently unsuitable for the one-handed tasks that I listed, above. First, their tablets are too large. Second, the 16:9 ratio makes them awkward to hold in portrait mode. Third, their current iterations seemed focused on surface use, not hand held use. Fourth, and most importantly, they do not currently have the job-specific apps necessary to perform the required tasks.

Job Specific, Proprietary Apps Are The Key

It is this last point that I want to dwell upon for a moment. When the press and the pundistocracy talk about apps, they usually focus on the big ticket items like Angry birds, Instagram, Facebook, Flipboard, etc. But the key to Apple’s app dominance are the untold number of proprietary, job specific apps designed by and for doctors, hospitals, park rangers, restaurants, entrepreneurs, businesses, educational institutions and government entities. THAT’s where the power of apps lies.

Neither the 9.7 or the 7.9 inch iPad tablet are competitor proof. But if you need a hand-held tablet that’s serious about apps, then no one competes with the iPad Mini in that space.

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Defendor

    This sort of occurred to me when Jobs ripped on 7″ tablets. They were missing a huge market opportunity. I didn’t think through all the potential users, but I was thinking of the Fedex guy and his industrial tablet thing, and I thought of restaurant wait staff.

    One handed use is essential in these stand up and use it activities. It is amazing that iPad even got of the ground with it’s bulk in some of these areas as it is really a sit down and use it kind of device.

    Since the Mini debut, I have anticipated it will be Apples best seller and I think it will ramp the growth curve as some of those areas you mention recognize how right-sized it is for these jobs.

    I think Apple really nailed a sizing SWEET SPOT. This is essentially the most screen you can hold in one hand. One of those things that sees obvious once you see it. After some Lag I expect we will see competitor shrinking the Bezels and increasing the screen size, or shrinking the bezels just to fit in more places.

    It is kind of funny with all these manufactures chasing an edge where Apple wasn’t, none of them thought to decrease the bezels to put more screen in your hand. Any bets on how long it takes for smaller bezels to migrate to the competition?

    After reading your more thorough list, I think the Mini is going to be Juggernaut.

    • http://twitter.com/jgpmolloy John Molloy

      “They were missing a huge market opportunity.”
      The problem was at the time did the technology exist to deliver a decent battery life in that sized device?

      Hindsight is 20/20 and forgetting how far we have come in so short a time shouldn’t be forgotten.

      • steve_webb

        Agreed!

        I recall reading that Apple’s original pad, the Newton Messagepad, was designed to fit in a lab coat pocket.

        The Newton’s problem was not battery life; the Newton lacked killer Apps.

        • steve_wildstrom

          Battery life was, in fact, one of the Newton’s many problems. The big one was the original MessagePad just didn’t work very well. Apple promised far more than they could deliver with handwriting recognition and the thing was miserably underpowered with a DragonBall processor. Apps would have come if they thing had worked better. Essentially, Palm filled the promise of Newton in a smaller package.

      • steve_wildstrom

        They probably could not have done a 1024×768 screen in that size in 2010 either, at least not at the price they wanted to hit.

      • Defendor

        I don’t think it was a technical limitation. I think it was one of not fragmenting the tablet ecosystem before it was fleshed out.

        A nuanced reading of the 2010 earnings where Steve states they needed a 10″ tablet to “create” great tablet apps, could be a clue.

        I think the single larger size was needed initially to break the “big phone” mindset that would simply have developers stretch phone apps a bit. Apple could also have likely delivered better iPhone app scaling to the iPad, but didn’t, that forced application updates.

        The goal was making a distinct larger target for unique targeted tablet applications. A smaller 7.9″ in too early might have muddied that water significantly.

        Look at the mess in Google tablet applications. The problem is there is no distinct size/resolution for a developers to target. So we get scalable mush instead of targeted brilliance.

        I was critical at the time, but seeing what they did now, I think they did exactly the right thing. Start with the bigger single size tablet to encourage higher quality distinct tablet applications. Then bring out the size reduction to fit into that ecosystem without disrupting it.

        Was it luck or crazy-brilliant, prescient planning. We will probably never know.

        • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

          If they had introduced the Mini first it really would have been a bigger iPod Touch.

    • mhikl

      “This sort of occurred to me when Jobs ripped on 7″ tablets. They were missing a huge market opportunity. ” Defendor, I have often wondered if Steve negated the smaller tablet to mess with the opposition. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple knew the time would come when they could match the fixings to the smaller form. All’s fair in competition and a blowhard Steve could be when it served his purpose.

      • Rich

        Right. More than once Jobs said Apple had no interest in a particular kind of product, and then later Apple introduced exactly that kind of product. I’m guessing Jobs made those statements to deceive the competition about Apple’s plans.

        • Armando

          Steve was a master at keeping the competition guessing as to Apple’s next move.

          • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

            He was also capable of changing his mind when new information was presented. There are many Type ‘A’ personalities who claim kinship with jobs, yet they lack the critical understanding that they are not always right. Jobs was perfectly capable of spinning 180 degrees when the facts or situation demanded it.

      • Defendor

        Actually if you read carefully the full text of what Steve said during that earnings call, it makes perfect sense and doesn’t really preclude Apple doing a smaller iPad in the future.

        • mhikl

          Agreed and an important point, Defendor. Steve understood the nuance of wiggle room. But the Apple deflectors took the thought and it is repeated ad nauseam.

        • FalKirk

          Agreed. People mock Jobs for that speech, but much of what he said is still valid today.

  • steve_wildstrom

    Saying there are no tablet-optimized apps for Android is too strong, but there certainly aren’t enough. Still, I don;t see what Google’s dependence on advertising/search has to do with it. If someone does the right apps for Android, Google’s business model really doesn’t matter. To some extent, that’s true of the Kindle too, but the Fire is much more Amazon-centric than the Nexus is Google-centric.

    • Defendor

      Speaking of Ads, did you guys notice that apps that Win8 ships with are ad-based. Why is this the first I am hearing of this?

      http://hothardware.com/News/Microsofts-Big-Hidden-Windows-8-Feature-BuiltIn-Advertising/

      • benbajarin

        Yeah many of the free aps have ads built in, by MICROSOFT no less. So the metro TWIT client I am using on Win 8 has a lower left hand slot that when empty says “Microsoft Advertising Partner” right there on it. It’s empty often cause no one is buying the inventory from MSFT.

        Seems like they may be trying to get more free but ad supported options out there. I am not sure how serious developers take this because many apps don’t have ads. Some do though.

        • Rich

          I believe the important question about ads in apps is how the users feel about them.

        • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

          Unbelievable that you pay for an OS with ads. Wow.

          • benbajarin

            Yeah, I am working on an analysis currently trying to find the commonality of when there are ads and when their aren’t. There also appears to be some differences of same apps in RT having ads and same app on Windows x86 not having ads. So trying to work that one out as well.

          • Rebeldad517

            Will you be posting this study? Would love to read your analysis. The ability to turn them off during the classroom day would be a winner!

    • FalKirk

      “I don;t see what Google’s dependence on advertising/search has to do with it.” – Steve Wildstrom

      Maybe you’re right, Steve, but Google only makes money on the Nexus if they sell content or have consumers consume ads. For those who are using their tablets for work – such as lawyers, doctors, educators and even park rangers, inventory takers or those in sales – this kind of intrusion may be intolerable.

      • mhikl

        I find ads just cheapen the experience, even when they are not intrusive. But that may just be me.

        • steve_wildstrom

          The Nexus, unlike the Fire, doesn’t come with any particular ads. It’s like any other Android device. Some apps and web pages display ads, some don’t. My point is that the question of whether Google makes money or not is of now particular concern to the Nexus buyer.

          • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

            Because its android and google sells ads against user information. its google business model and the entire reason for androids existence.

          • FalKirk

            “My point is that the question of whether Google makes money or not is of now particular concern to the Nexus buyer.” – Steve Wildstrom

            That’s true, Steve. I think we’re agreeing but on parallel courses. What I’m trying to say is that because Google has a strong incentive to sell content and make money from ads, that they may take steps that become intrusive to the end user. They really NEED to intrude upon you if their business model is going to work.

            If you’re watching content and playing games, this is perfectly acceptable. If you’re working, it may not be acceptable.

          • Rebeldad517

            Agreed. Educators (Classroom Teachers) have plenty to manage n the classroom in educating, breaking out small groups teaching for specific tablet dynamics adds it’s own level of difficulties. Having also to manage distractions of ads popping up would only exacerbate those challenges. I know that some schools have chosen to attempt Kindle HD’s as a cheaper alternative, I do wonder how they manage as these have tended to be High schools rather than elementary/grade schools. I am not at all surprised educations leap to adoption of these smaller computer tablets as a part of expending teaching and learning in the classroom. They’ve waited along time for a form factor to arrive that would allow this type of immersion. My only concerns as I’ve pointed out several times to my wife a special education teacher (K-6) what are the teacher management applications that have been developed to help the tablet achieve adaptation in the daily teachers arsenal of tools to be better at what she does. To date just a head jiggle. They are coming????

          • Nemesys571

            The thing is, have they actually taken steps that become intrusive to the end user of a Nexus 7? No. That’s an imagined scenario. Sounds more like FUD to me. They are very clear and up-front about things like Location Services, Backup to Google Services, etc. You have to check a box and expressly opt-in to services that provide some personal information to Google,which they may use to improve the service for everyone they offer the service to. The ads are sold on specific apps, which people choose to use because of the brand appeal Google builds by providing many useful services for free. The idea that Google “may take steps that become intrusive to the end user” and therefore professionals should not buy a Nexus 7 is just spreading of fear, uncertainty and doubt without basis.

      • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

        Google makes no money from the Nexus. They are selling it at cost in the hopes that someone, anyone will buy an Android tablet.

    • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

      OK how about practically none.

  • mhikl

    Good points all round Kirk. However, what if the Apple Pads are just too expensive in important areas. Is the tablet market going to follow the computer market with one dominant player or will it evolve many specialised players? This might be particularly so if the devolution of the economy that the world seems to be inheriting evolves to the standard. The other problem is that Apple does seem to have supply problems. Each new iteration of its products seem to sell so fast that orders can’t to be filled orderly.

    Apple will continue to be a dominant player, but the form factor of the tablet and what it can do may be particularly open to speciality. Many tablets will be able to read books, surf the net, do email and chat by text and voice and all the things the pad does so well now. But someone like Amazon may come out with the specialised “School Tab” that is inexpensive and rents textbooks; textbooks being the razor blades. Sure doctors can afford the full featured iPads but what of lesser lines of work. Good enough at the right price opens up a lot of markets closed to the expense of an Apple iPad.

    • FalKirk

      “Apple does seem to have supply problems. Each new iteration of its products seem to sell so fast that orders can’t to be filled orderly.” – mhiki

      It sometimes amazes me that selling every unit one make is viewed as a problem.

      “Good enough at the right price opens up a lot of markets closed to the expense of an Apple iPad.”

      Well, that was kind of the point of the article. Not only isn’t there a product good enough to compete with the iPad in the markets I described in the article, there isn’t any competition at all.

      When it comes to content, reading and tons of other activities, the iPad has plenty of competition. When it comes to app-centric work in a hand-held form factor, the iPad currently has no competition at all.

      • Rich

        “It sometimes amazes me that selling every unit one make is viewed as a problem.”

        It’s seen as a problem because a manufacturer doesn’t like to make customers wait for a product that the customers really want.

        • FalKirk

          “It’s seen as a problem because a manufacturer doesn’t like to make customers wait for a product that the customers really want.”

          I understand that, Rich, but it seems to me that Apple gets it from both sides. They’re criticized because their prices are too high – but then they sell everything in stock. If they’re selling everything then, by definition, their prices aren’t too high.

          And they’re criticized for not making enough – but if you look at their sales numbers, they normally sell plenty and make plenty of profit.

          Of course they would like to have perfect supply/demand equilibrium. But for most companies, Apple’s problem would be a dream come true. For 99.9% of the companies in existence, demand (at the right price) is the problem, not supply.

          • steve_wildstrom

            Apple generally has trouble meeting demand on new form factors because it takes a while for manufacturing to get up to speed. At the time the iPhone 4S was introduced in the same form factor as the 4, there was a lot of speculation that Apple held off on a redesign because demand was phenomenal and they felt it wasn’t the right time for manufacturing to go through a learning process.

        • AdamChew

          The catch phrase is selling every unit and which company don’t want this problem. But to the analysts’ this is bad because Apple will not be able to beat their wild guesses.

          • Rebeldad517

            Steve Jobs pulled out of MacWorld and other expo’s because he no longer wanted to have Apple tied to the product deliver(read expectations) of some one else’s schedule. I’d think the same is true for production Tim and the team do determine what is projected from all units and designs productions based on the best available information at the time to order(purchase) raw materials for assembly and partner (stated ability) deliver of said units. In a perfect world all those would come together to create a balanced 3-4 day just in time system… But who lives in a perfect world? Nope not even Apple!

      • mhikl

        I’ve usually viewed “sold out” as Apple success, too. However, though I am not well enough versed in the economics, and though Apple usually does meet its own quarterly forecasts, (though not always the forecasts of others) I am surprised it isn’t better at judging how many of a product it will sell over the introductory period. But there may be politics in the economics of this that I don’t appreciate—maybe it is in Apple’s interest to grab headlines that it is sold out again.

        I realise there are no products yet to compete with Apple’s pads, but we have seen what has happened in the mobile market Apple restyled. Time will tell if the competition can replicate its success in the tablet market as well. And yes, no one has and may never replicate Apple’s success in apps, but couldn’t a few “right” apps mess with the education market for Apple? The tablet may very likely revolutionise education (you’ve mentioned this before Kirk and I quite agree) but there may not be the public funds available for Apple to dominate in education if Amazon were to come out with a good-enough tablet for the textbooks it sells. (However, I may be reading too much Chris Hedges.)

        I do suspect Apple is smart enough to learns from past errors and could thwart any Amazon intention by coming out with a lower cost pad specifically for districts and parents that are short on funds. Time will tell.

        • Rebeldad517

          You may also discount that Apple has the largest (on the ground) Education (K-12 & Higher Ed) team selling (order taking) products to and specifically for those institutions. In many places that would make a difference for some to purchase.

          • mhikl

            Good points Reb; as part of the education system I do see that Apple is often first choice due to its history and teacher habit; education is not always as progressively thinking as it should. However, the economic times we live in may dictate a second look by many in this field. The great depression took nearly two decades to be overcome and that included the economics and sober thought of the second great war.
            Concern (my ignorance of the subject) is Apple’s continued innovation. Others are learning from Apple, and I don’t mean imitating its design and patents. It should be interesting to see what comes of iTunes 11? at the end of the month which may be a first step in it rectifying some real problems. see http://counternotions.com/2012/11/05/sirjony/ (thanks to JGruber) I should like to see someone at TechPinions taking this topic on.

            There’s a lot of janitorial work Apple needs to do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fred-Ossefogva/100002098309344 Fred Ossefogva

    The Mini is $130 more than the FireHD, and forces you into their walled garden. The Android ecosystem may be messy, but people are tired of being squeezed to pay for pretty Apple machines. That’s why the Mac never got more than single digit market share. Good enough is just that—good enough and a helluva lot cheaper. A Rolex watch would also be nice, but my cellphone keeps time just fine.

    • mhikl

      Fred says “. . . and forces you into their walled garden.”
      No one forces anyone into a walled garden. People make choice. Some make choices without doing their homework. Some make the choice that their pockets can afford.

      Fred says “A Rolex watch would also be nice.”
      Yup, a Rolex is nice but mine sits in the sock drawer. I bought it at fair price when I worked in Malaysia but now my iPt gives me time and a lot more. We are free to make our choices and in democratic societies that applies to those who can afford Rolex’s and those who go for Timex’s.

      Mac share is sort of off topic, but go to http://gigaom.com/apple/macs-still-growing-while-rest-of-u-s-pc-market-stagnates/ and see double digits in US for a while now. Lots of good info on this with a Google search. Actually, kind of delightful.

    • FalKirk

      “The Mini is $130 more than the FireHD, and forces you into their walled garden.” – Fred Ossefogva

      An odd argument, Fred, as the Amazon Fire is designed to get you to shop at the Amazon store.

      “The Android ecosystem may be messy, but people are tired of being squeezed to pay for pretty Apple machines.” – Fred Ossefogva

      You really shouldn’t let your biases alter the facts. iOS has some 400 million users and it’s selling quite well. It’s most likely that the iPhone and the iPad will be the best selling phones and tablets in the world this upcoming quarter. The iPhone and the iPad both have approval ratings in the high eighties while Samsung’s phones are under 50%. And the retention ratings for Apple products is still astronomically high.

      In no way am I saying that Android, Amazon or Microsoft make bad products. What I’m saying is that your suggestion that people are “tired of being squeezed to pay for pretty Apple machines” is demonstrably false. Let’s base our arguments upon facts, not emotions. It’s far more likely to lead us to the truth (as opposed to what we only wish were true.)

      • Rebeldad517

        Not to mention educational institutions are able to receive discounted volume purchases from Apple. I’ve not yet seen them for the mini so I’m unable to provide just what those happen to be. I have seen many educational titles for schools that do offer volume discounts.

    • Rich

      “People are tired of being squeezed to pay for pretty Apple machines.”

      So that’s why Apple sells all the “pretty Apple machines” they can make, because people are tired of paying for them? C’mon guy, if you’re going to make a statement, at least connect it to reality.

  • nobody

    Further, the inherent security benefits of Apple’s “walled-garden” approach might also be attractive to organizations and industries (e.g. medicine) where privacy and security considerations are paramount.

    • steve_wildstrom

      This is a major reason why enterprises found it relatively easy to tolerate iPads and iPhones. They not only had some confidence in Apple’s security model but Apple also offered a mechanism for IT departments to use the iTunes. Mechanism to distribute custom apps.

  • Realist

    I think you clearly don’t understand how doctors work. You cannot input data on a patient into a private record that nobody has access to. Also most doctors despite what you think are quite tech savvie, you have to be to cope with the vagaries of different computer systems. It is in fact a job requirement and part of your skill set which is assessed whenever you apply for a post.
    An ipad mini which is not linked into a hospital database and clearly cannot be because the security is too lax will never be useful professionally to a doctor. Your epiphany is not much of one.
    Ipad minis are for children, or adults, for play.

    • steve_wildstrom

      Realist, I don’t know if you are a doctor, but you appear to be a bit behind the times in understanding the extent to which tablets, particularly the iPad, are being used in medical practice. For example, an iPad app from Epic, probably the leading maker of large scale electronic medical record systems, allows doctors to access Epic records on iPads. Other apps let a doctor walk around with a Merck Manual and a PDR on an iPad. “For play” indeed.