Let’s Talk About the iPad Mini and Ultra-Mobile Computing

on November 5, 2012

[dc]A[/dc]pple announced today that they sold 3 million iPad Mini (Wi-Fi version) and fourth generation iPads in three days. Through some smart discussions with some folks who track supply chain shipments, I estimate that around 1.7 to 2 million of those were iPad Mini’s. Call it an educated guess. Any sane person who saw the product in person and understands the value of tablets to the end consumer, would not be surprised with the Mini’s success. I have a hunch the iPad mini will be one of the hottest sellers this holiday season.

I have had the iPad Mini since Friday and I have observed some interesting things.

An iPad For Everyone

I am drawn to big screens. As impractical as it absolutely would be, I would own the biggest possible HDTV imaginable. However, there are many who are much more practical in these matters than myself – like my wife. This is why the diversification of the tablet form factor, and in this case the iPad, is an important move. The market favors options, and this includes the portfolio from single brands.

We have already heard quite a bit about the iPad Mini in education, particularly k-12, and I do believe it has a great deal of upside in that market but there are a few other segments that I think are particularly interesting for the iPad Mini. Specifically women and China (Asia).

My wife and kids already prefer the iPad Mini over its larger brother. I still use the iPad heavily but I have integrated it into my life in ways most have not and depend on it for a large percentage of my computing tasks. What makes the mini such a delight to use is how easy it is to hold. This, in my mind, has always been the attractive feature of the smaller form factor tablets. This may be the practical feature that many, particularly women, may appreciate about the iPad Mini.

Asia is a market that loves miniaturization. Through the decade plus I have been and industry analyst and have studied the global consumer market, I have been shocked at the ultra-small gadgets and PCs that are particularly popular with Asian consumers. This is why, in my opinion, the iPad Mini is so strategic for Apple in China. Its unique form factor, rich ecosystem of apps, and specific software innovations for the Asian market, give it one of the strongest tablet strategies for Asia. Of course the lower price helps as well.

The iPad Mini represents an option as a part of a portfolio of computing devices from Apple. For many it will be the perfect iPad.

Let’s Go Outside

One of my working hypothesis with tablets, is that their more mobile form factor, allows us to take computing to locations where notebooks can’t or are not suited for. As we have studied tablet usage from a variety of different vantage points we continually come across use cases where tablets are being used in much more mobile context than notebooks. Particularly because one can stand up, walk around, be truly mobile and still use the device.

This is the usage model that I thought would lead the iPad out into the world more often. I have seen people using their iPads at the beach, park, walking in the city, etc., but now having used the Mini, I think this product has a shot at being the iPad we see being used out in public regularly.

The case for this ultra-mobile iPad may be made even stronger with the WAN connected Minis and could spur entirely new usage models for pervasively connected mobile computers.

Going back to the appeal of the Mini for women for a moment. Women are uniquely positioned to embrace this ultra-mobile personal computer because most of them regularly carry a bag or purse in which to store it. The Mini fits into few of my pants back pockets but realistically I would never carry it in my pockets.

To be entirely honest, it was this big screen, connected mobile experience that I genuinely liked about the Galaxy Note 5.3 inch phone. That device was just too clunky as a phone to fit the bill in my opinion. The Mini could lead us into some interesting areas if it not only leaves the house, but gets used in places currently only smartphones get used.

Let’s Play Some Games

Another area that stood out to me with the iPad Mini was gaming. And not just casual gaming, full on immersive, hard core gaming experiences.

I grew up in the Nintendo and beyond era. Even as I got older and had a family, I still enjoy a long gaming session from time to time. I was surprised over the past few years to see so many non-casual and more hardcore immersive games (particularly first person shooters) showing up on the iPad. I tried many of these games and just couldn’t take to them. At first I thought it was the virtual D-pad but now I think it was simply the size of the iPad. Although not impossible, it is awkward, to hold the iPad two handed and still easily use a virtual D-pad and soft buttons on the screen. All that goes out the window with the Mini.

I was pleasantly surprised how great of an experience gaming is on the iPad Mini. I have any number of dedicated mobile gaming consoles and I have to say the Mini is on par with all of them.

We all know games are particularly compelling on tablets, and although there are a number of hardcore and immersive games for the iPad, I am not sure how well they are doing. All of that may change if developers catch wind of the iPad Mini as a gaming platform. The iPad Mini could very well be the device that brings Apple into an entirely new level as a gaming platform.

I am excited to see where Apple, developers, and the market take the iPad Mini. This is a fresh new form factor, and one that absolutely has a different appeal and experience than the iPad. I expect some evolving will happen with both platforms as the consumers try and evaluate both to see which ones meet their needs exactly. This is why it is important to have choice. Not all consumers prefer the same solution, and for Apple’s key growth products–which the iPad is in–making sure there are options for all types of consumers and market needs is essential.