Why Competitors Should Fear the iPad Mini

on November 21, 2012

We have been conducting tiers of research trying to gauge consumer sentiment around tablets and in particular of late, the iPad Mini. Part of my interest with this research is designed to get deeper insight into the 7″ form factor in terms of perceived value and core uses cases for consumers versus the larger tablet form factors.

Bear in mind, when we do research it is rooted in ethnography and observational methods not surveys. We interview consumers and strive to understand things from their perspective. I like to explain it by saying we strive let consumers perspectives help shape our own rather than the other way around. That’s how Creative Strategies has done it for over 30 years and its never let us down.

Another thing worth mentioning for those not familiar with our work is that we target consumers in our interviews on specific parts of the adoption curve. Most of our focus is on the mass market consumer and late adopters not the tech elite and early adopters.

Our research on this matter will get packaged in a more formal way in the future but I wanted to share a few highlights.

Shifting Mindset

One thing I found interesting was that nearly everyone we spoke to who expressed interest in the iPad Mini, simply assumed the next version would include a Retina display. More interestingly this did not seem to be a deterrent to their intended purchase this holiday season. When I dug into why there was no interest to wait, the overwhelming consensus was that over time their intention was not just to own one but to own many. Ideally one for every person in the house. So the logic goes, when the new one comes out the older gets handed down. This used to be the logic for notebooks.

Price was certainly a driving factor for the interest of the iPad Mini over the iPad. But to many the price premium did not seem to be a deterrent. One of my key takeaways is that the perception with the iPad and the iPad Mini, relative to tablets, is that even though you pay more, you get more. This in terms of hardware and software quality as well as ecosystem and perhaps more importantly the experience.

The vast majority we interviewed had not owned a tablet yet and were on all parts of the economic scale. Those in the lower income brackets were also intending to research a few other tablets in the 7″ form factor. The leading three were the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD. Even with that bit of feedback over 60% said they were still leaning toward the Mini.

When we discussed the intended use cases for the iPad Mini, every single person with kids mentioned it as a part of their child’s educational process as a key use case. This did not surprise me. What did surprise me was that over half of those who brought up using it as a part of their kids educational process made the point that they believed the iPad would be used in schools in the future and making sure their kids were proficient with it was important and that they wanted their kids to use the same technology at home they will be using in schools.

This bit of feedback is very interesting. Here again we have a thought process that was used for notebooks and PC literacy skills being used for tablets. I truly believe we are moving into a touch literate world.

Some concluding thoughts. I firmly believe, now more than ever, that the tablet is taking the place in the hearts of many consumers as the new personal computer. This again cements in my mind the fact that this market will be much larger than the notebook and desktop market ever was and I believe even closer in size to the smartphone market than people realize.

Our research is continually bringing to light that consumers are thinking about tablets the way they used to think about notebooks. Validating again our conviction of a PC Cliff.

Continually we hear that although price is a consideration they don’t simply want cheap. Consumers are smart and they will pay for value. I believe way to many believe that price is the ultimate decision factor and our research continually validates that is not true. If the mindset around tablets continues to have emotional and personal appeal then there will always be a market for more premium experiences.

What I would be worried about if I am an Apple competitor is that the iPad, and perhaps specifically the iPad Mini, becomes the tablet that large portions of the market cut their teeth on thus becoming the standard. The iPad family, in my opinion, is the only no compromise general purpose tablet on the market. The bottom line is price not as big of a deal as we believe and consumers will pit the iPad against the competition (all which I have had extensive time with). That comparison, with the reality that price is not the ultimate driver, is what competitors should be most concerned about.