ZDNET poses an interesting question: Has Apple redfeined the tablet as an 8in device?
I'm thinking they might have. Purely by accident.
The evidence isn't the iPad mini by itself but the Mini within the context of the evolution of the tablet market in the second half of 2012.
It's telling that on the one hand a lot of products that seem to sell well in competition with the iPad are already on a "mini" scale. Nexus 7 is a popular Android tablet with a clue-is-in-the-name screen size of 7" that seems to sell OK. The Kindle Fire tablets are each about that size and seem to sell well too. Samsung have also pre-announced an 8" Galaxy Note for Mobile World Congress next month.
On the other hand, it's also telling that smartphones not made by Apple tend to be getting bigger. The Lumia 920, is a huge smartphone with a 4.5" screen. The Galaxy S III has a 4.8" screen. And then you have things like the Galaxy Note II with a 5.6" screen.
A year ago, the tablet market that existed was one where nobody had made any significant money, except Apple. Since then, nobody has made any significant money off *10in* tablets. Plenty of players seem to be doing fine at 7in.
And then, it can be argued that the single biggest smartphone deveopment of the last year was *not* the iPhone 5 but the Galaxy Note. (Number two would be the Lumia 920/820--for stopping the bleeding at Nokia--and number Three the Galaxy SIII. Naturally, I'm talking physical size.
Whatever is happening out there, there seems to be drift in screen sizes towards devices with screens that are -- for the sake of argument -- around 6" for a smartphone and around 8" for a tablet.
So why should the market like small tablets? Any why would the market like large smartphones? Something seems to be exerting a force on the tablet market that's leading to a smaller screen. Similarly, something seems to be exerting a force on the smartphone market to make larger screens.
I think what's happening here is the same force acting in two different ways.
On the smartphone side, people are caring less about making phone calls and more about being able to access their digital world regardless of where they are and what primary activity they're engaged in. Smartphones and tablets both do that last bit well, but a larger screen is needed to gain higher utility.
Hmm, people want larger screens than smartphones but smaller than the 10inchers...
Something in the 7-9in range. While I favor 9in myself I think the market will (again) copy Apple and go with 8in as the next standard size.
Looking forward, we have the upcoming Galaxy Note 8 and (rumored) Nexus 7.7 along with a zillion me-too Mini clones incoming, all targetting the $199 price point, hoping to make more money than selling 7in tablets, which are headed for $99.
What makes this a trend to watch is that Apple, by sticking the mini with an XGA screen has set a benchmark that can *easily* be matched and bettered, fast.
Fast is the key.
Even as we speak, Archos and a dozen third tier vendors are rushing to get XGA and SXGA 8in tablets out so they can match or even *leapfrog* the Mini before Apple can update it.
There is both marketshare and money to be made there so a stampede is coming. And I think that, since the primary function of tablets is content consumption, the 8in form factor may be (close to?) hitting an optimum balance of low weight and screen size at a low cost. Which would make them a better long-form reading platform than the 10in models.
I'm thinking the Galaxy Note 8 bears watching.