Home opinion-and-analysis Fuzzy Logic iPad mini: almost, but not quite yet, the iPad Ultimate?

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With a smaller size and noticeably lighter weight that’s easy to hold in one hand and even easier to use with two, the iPad mini is shaping up to be Planet Earth’s most versatile, useful, useable, affordable and über-portable yet full screen computing device yet – with next year’s model obviously going to be even better!

The golden era of tablet, smartphone and ultra mobile computing and communications continues at full pace as we sit here in the fourth quarter of 2012, on the cusp of the greatest range of new tablets, smartphones, hybrids and touch computing devices of all types ever seen thus far in human history, across iOS, Android, Windows RT, Windows 8, and Linux based systems.

Beyond the new Mac Minis, the new iMacs with 5mm-thin edges and the rest of the motherboard and storage hidden in a cleverly positioned rear “hump” and the long awaited new iPad mini, there was also the surprise of a new 4th-gen iPad.

Some suggested it was merely a refresh to bring Lightning to the party, but it was more than that – a new A6X CPU upgrade delivering a claimed doubling of CPU and graphics performance over the now superseded iPad (3).

Given the fact that the A5X in the iPad 3 hadn’t boosted CPU performance over the A5 in the iPad 2, instead delivering a quad-core graphics GPU to drive the Retina display, Apple obviously saw its flagship iPad needed a speed boost much sooner than in another six months time, helping ensure the flagship “new, new” iPad in late 2012 stays as performance competitive as possible in this, the most important fourth quarter of sales.   

Alongside the iPad 4th-gen comes the iPad mini, which despite its more diminutive dimensions, looks likely to dramatically overshadow its much bigger brother.

Here Apple is accused of following others who have already blazed the 7-inch path, with Amazon, Google and Samsung having the most mass market 7-inch success.

However, it is estimations of these 7-inch tablet sales that are merged with 10-inch and other sized Android tablets which are used in aggregate across brands and devices to challenge sales of the iPad, making Apple the biggest individual vendor by far.

Now, the iPad mini comes at precisely the right time to take full advantage of a mature processor and smaller motherboard production process, an improved case design that perfectly dovetails with that of the iPhone 5 and the iPod Touch, at its lightest ever weight, thinnest ever profile, lowest ever price and highest ever utility and utterly amazing value especially in an age of ever rising inflation.

The iPad and indeed, Apple’s entire ecosystem is something that is currently growing exponentially with a velocity that Google knows only too well through its dominance in search and Microsoft is betting absolutely “everything” on in both re-igniting, except this time as successfully as Apple has while presumably still having OEM partners, and re-creating, as was the case in the Windows 95 era of near absolute Microsoftian dominance – and as is perceived as the case with Apple today, despite the billion-plus Windows userbase.  

But now that it has launched, and even before a single model has been purchased, it’s the iPad mini that is the true mass-market tablet of the moment.

Although not as aggressively priced under $300 as many had hoped, the iPad mini preserves Apple’s margins and protects the company’s ability to offer lower prices in the future, especially as 2nd and 3rd-gen models arrive, while putting a real, full-power iPad in the reach of many millions and even tens of millions more people than ever before – if not in even larger numbers to truly seriously dent the billion-plus Windows users out there.

The iPad mini appears to be the perfect size to be:

- The ultimate portable blogging and user-generated content sharing tool
- The ultimate size for easily readable portable web surfing
- The best smaller tablet-sized slimline handheld camera and video camera that’s far more convenient than holding aloft the larger iPad
- A more comfortable, more richly detailed, UI optioned and larger-screen sized gaming experience than the iPod Touch can deliver
- The ultimate portable yet still big-screen endless gaming experience across a cornucopia of categories and styles
- The ultimate ebook and PDF reader with native and a wide range of third-party apps
- A record breaking best seller at new pricing that starts lower than ever before for the 16GB Wi-Fi only base model
- The ultimate video and IPTV stream player thanks to the widest range of apps delivering video and IPTV streams, both free and paid
- The ultimate portable sized music and video player, complete with wired and wireless video and audio out options
- The ultimate portable voice dictation, recording and, when wirelessly connected to the Internet, instant transcription device
- The ultimate “there’s an app for that” new super portable sized device that has all the apps along with all the momentum and growth that sees no signs of slowing up anytime soon despite the threat of Android and Windows 8/RT
- And a device that starts at a genuinely lower and more affordable than ever price for an iPad that is the ultimate price – for Apple, that is.

This helps Apple attract the maximum number of new sales relative to realistic current manufacturing capacity while still making the maximum amount of well earned profit that the market will bear to pay over the build-of-materials cost of manufacture and contribute to Apple’s other costs of doing business.  

The iPad mini is the ultimate iPad for what is ultimately the most important technological sales season yet, in the most important quarter, when confronted by its most important competitors yet.

Next year’s iPad will obviously be even better, which would theoretically propel the iPad mini to an even lower price point next year, although perhaps by then with an A6-class processor, perhaps in a cheaper non-retina and more expensive Retina version, with breakthroughs in battery and display technologies presumably not able to deliver an ultra-thin retina-class only iPad mini until 2014 at the earliest.

The iPad mini is yet to be available at retail and the mass market is truly yet to speak, but what I thought was the beginnings of a true golden age for tablets, smartphones and mobile computing in 2011 is newly blossoming in late 2012 while promising an even more spectacular future.

Until then, the iPad mini is the safest bet for the most feature packed tablet experience of 2012 - and could be so massive that it just might outsell both the larger iPad and iPhone 5 in total numbers combined.

Time will tell, but it just looks like Apple has introduced the ultimate affordable tablet with maximum mass appeal at long last, dwarfing the tablet frenzy seen up until this moment in time – the opening ceremony of the tablet iGames of late 2012 has begun, with plenty more Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Asus and LG launch action over the next few days to come!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.

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