The iPad Mini is the product of a post-Jobs Apple, argues iQU's Fraser MacInnes

More Think Similar than Think Different

The iPad Mini is the product of a post-Jobs Apple, argues iQU's Fraser MacInnes

Fraser MacInnes is a mobile games industry professional who cut his teeth writing for Pocket Gamer. He's now working at iQU, a behavioural knowledge company working in the games sector.

In September 2012, Apple introduced us all to the creepy uncle of the iOS lineup – the positively Fester-like iPhone 5.

This week, the company is all set to lollop into a new device category, and is seemingly about to goblinise its signature tablet to produce the iPad Mini.

Muscling in on a device category simply because it exists is a very un-Apple like move. Indeed, Apple is better known for defining new device categories and obstinately opting out of others completely.

The iPad Mini (or whatever it ends up being called – I'm writing this before any announcement) is a post-Steve Jobs mission statement for Apple. The race to the middle – more Think Similar than Think Different.

Primed for success despite itself…

The new smaller device is almost certainly going to be incredibly successful.

It will likely sport a gift-able, entry-level price point, that makes it a very different financial proposition compared to a full size iPad. It's also supported by a stellar ecosystem of apps and the unstoppable brand power that Apple has built up over the past ten years.

In other words, Cupertino's latest touchscreen content window will probably sell faster than gilded bottles of magical youth elixir.

It's clear Apple is betting on kids, grandmothers and really nice aunties getting one in their holiday stocking, given that the company has reportedly ordered 10 million of the blighters from its manufacturers in China for the initial run.

Because let's face it, the iPad Mini is the iPad you buy for other people – people who don't have any interest in parting with their hard earned for a tablet themselves, but wouldn't kick one out of bed for eating crisps either.

Answering the market instead of design questions…

Yet, this is not a device that exists because it offers a specific solution to a content consumption problem that can't be solved any other way.

This is a device that's much more about competing in a form factor and price bracket that Apple doesn't currently touch – a price bracket where unlikely and opportunistic customers lurk. Sound business strategy then, but on a product and innovation level, it's not terribly inspiring.

It's great that Apple has an alternative answer for those of us pondering the purchase of a Kindle Fire HD or a Google Nexus 7, but it's been a while since Apple was in the position of providing an answer to a new product category – the shoe is usually on the other foot.

What innovative products are coming down the pipeline? Will the fabled Apple TV set ever see the light of day? Or dare I say it, the Apple gaming console?

Developer pain…

Then there's the hurt this is going to give developers in the gaming realm.

Okay, perhaps having a fourth screen resolution to code for isn't the end of the universe, but it's surely a little tiresome to be saddled with a fresh chunk of development overhead when the end result isn't about a new opportunity to make your content shine a little more brightly – in fact it's the opposite.

Then again, for brand new titles, maybe access to the new demographics that a 7" device invites will bring about something in the way of innovative content game-wise – although if the Wii is anything to go by, new gaming demographics invite as much shovelware as they do innovative new experiences.

iQU hits back...

Anyway, with the iPad Mini set to be a tawdry dollars and cents exercise, the goal is wide-open for other scrappy young upstarts to plug the innovation gap – I think it's time for iQU to pivot manically and lurch forward into the dizzy realm of original equipment manufacture.

Look out for our free, ad-supported, 1 x 1 metre tablet with holographic display on Kickstarter soon.

*Authors note: If it turns out that Apple doesn't announce a smaller iPad on the 23rd and instead opts to launch the iRockinghorse or something, feel free to tar and feather me the next time you see me… You can follow Fraser's industry commentary on his blog, or else grab bite-size rants via Twitter.