We've been seeing an increasing amount of chatter around the notion of an iPad Mini, a seven-inch version of the Apple tablet that would compete directly with the Google Nexus 7 (the 16 GB version of which just sold out online) as well as the dominant small tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire.
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One of the most respected Apple analysts called the Mini "highly likely" last week; another analyst got so specific as to predict a launch month (October) a price ($299) and an exact screen size (7.85 inches). A Bloomberg report on the Mini cited two sources with knowledge of Apple's plans.
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But you don't have to listen to analysts or the media; they've been wrong before. Instead, take a look at this chart, created by engineer and tech enthusiast Ryan Jones. Not only does it show the gaping hole in Apple's product line-up, but it puts the Mini in historical context.
Every successful Apple product since Steve Jobs' return to the company in 1997 has followed this playbook. The company brings out a relatively high-priced version, allows the buzz around it to permeate, then slowly fills up a range of lower-priced options to tackle the competition's attempts to undercut it. It was as true for the original iMac (not shown in this chart) as it was for the iPhone.
Tim Cook has been dropping hints along these lines for a while. As Jones points out, the Apple CEO told a recent earnings call that the company would take care not to create a "price umbrella" -- that is, a high-priced market-leading product under which lower-priced competitors can find shelter.
Well, the iPad's shadow currently allows popular 7-inch Android tablets to thrive unencumbered by Apple competition -- and you can bet Cook isn't happy about that. (He's also very familiar with the Apple playbook outlined here, having been at the center of the company and its inventory strategy since 1998).
So an iPad Mini in the $200 to $300 range seems a no-brainer. The only real question is how Apple can fill out the rest of the category -- by getting one of the phone carriers to subsidize an iPad Mini 3G with little to no on-board storage, perhaps.
Would you buy a 7-inch Apple tablet? Let us know in the comments.
Thumbnail image via NetworkWorld.com
This story originally published on Mashable here.