As we are all abundantly aware, the iPad Mini is not only real, but it’s now on its way to market. Shifting from the ethereal world of rumor and conjecture, the tangible iPad Mini is, presumably, mere days away from appearing in local Apple Stores, and mere months away from being wedged into reams upon reams of gift wrapping.
And yet, unlike other Apple product announcements of late, the iPad Mini has proven to be perplexing for a great many people in the Apple community. The device was not anticipated with overwhelming expectations, nor was it received with excessive plaudits.
Instead, the iPad Mini was announced to a multitude of reactions. Some feel the $329 price-point is too high. Others feel the price-point is befitting of Apple’s stature as a manufacturer of high-quality products. Pre-existing iPad owners seem unsure as to whether the device is for them. Others immediately sought to sell their full-sized iPads in anticipation of the Mini’s arrival.
For all of this, the variance in our collective response has been misconstrued as a sign of negativity. But that really isn’t a fair evaluation of the critical response to the iPad Mini.
When Tim Cook and Phil Schiller took to the stage on Tuesday, the iPad Mini portion of the keynote was not spoken to the vast majority of those of us who were listening. It was being spoken to the uninitiated, the tentative, and the indifferent.
Aptly juxtaposed with the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s introduction, the iPad Mini, by comparison, was presented in an altogether different light. Looking at professional-grade software and its pixel-perfect presentation on the Mac, the iPad Mini was conversely presented as a lightweight, well-built, and irreducibly fun device.
Gone was the rhetoric about the post-PC environment, replaced with a smiling Tim Cook and Phil Schiller articulating quite how delightful the iPad Mini is and taking childish jabs at Google’s Nexus 7, the best reviewed of the competition.
Therein lies the allure of the iPad Mini. It is not a machine of robust computing as its larger sibling and competitors aspire to be. It is a smaller device purpose-built for simpler tasks.
That’s not to say the Mini is incapable of the same tasks the larger iPad is, but I would argue the Mini has been pitched and marketed as something altogether different. It’s an agile, simplistic, and concentrated device designed as an endearing window onto the tablet environment. The Mini is pointed squarely at the casual user in search of a feature-rich, but not cumbersome, addition to their computing environment. A device for Facebook, light web browsing, and some gameplay.
The iPad Mini has evoked a polarized response from the Apple community simply because it’s a product we were all intensely interested in due to its iPad branding, but deflated to find that it does not quite fit into our respective use-case scenarios. But, rather than decry and misjudge the product, it’s important to remember that the iPad Mini is not the iPad we’ve all grown to know and love. Contrary to the name, the iPad Mini is an altogether different device that happens to run the same apps. Much the same as the iPod Touch is much different than the iPhone 5.
We might not all rush to purchase one and we may be disappointed by the lack of Retina, but the average shopper who happens across a lightweight iPad for $170 less than the larger and most up-to-date model will be thrilled.
Beyond the consumer focus of the iPad Mini, however, I believe it also marks a transitive moment for Apple.
I tend to think 2012 has been a year of house-keeping for the folks in Cupertino. There have been auspicious product updates, to be sure, but that is not the narrative Apple has sought to impart. Rather, with the alignment of iOS and OS X with platform stabilizing releases for each, the addition of Retina to both Pro-level MacBooks, the alteration of the iPhone and iPad screen size possibilities, and the clearance of the typical release calendar for the first half of 2013, all signs point toward an enormous year for Apple next year.
Looking back at what Apple has achieved in 2011, we’ve seen virtually every facet of the product and software lines reach a point of stability. Some onlookers have misperceived this as stagnation but, to my eyes, it appears more likely to be the reinforcement of Apple’s foundations before doing some altogether new things.
With the introduction of the iPad Mini, Apple now protrudes into a broad spectrum of price-ranges for each of its products. It has ensured that, regardless of the product-type that may intrigue you, there is a product awaiting you. Moreover, as Marco rightly highlighted, Apple’s flagship products are now on an updated schedule for readiness just ahead of the holiday season each year.
In concert, this results in the aggressive proliferation of up-to-date hardware ahead of a now vacant six-to-eight month window for Apple to capitalize upon.
Moving into the new year, millions upon millions of people will be running OS X 10.8 and iOS 6 on modern hardware. iCloud, tested and weathered by this influx of people, will’ve (hopefully) reached a point of well-tested stability. iTunes and the associative App Stores will’ve endured a much-needed facelift.
In essence, unlike any other point in the past, by early-2013, Apple will have ushered us all onto a stabilized, well-aligned, and robust platform. A platform which will be ripe for innovative growth and concerted change. A platform with which Apple can do things it would’ve never been able to achieve before.
That, my friends, is why the claims of a “boring” Apple ring resoundingly false. And that is precisely why Apple — despite rapidly increasing pressure from Google and Microsoft — remains a company worth our time, attention, and investment.