Ever since Amazon’s Kindle Fire proved popular, we have said Apple will launch an under-$300 tablet with a 7-inch screen. Apple needs such a product now that Samsung and Google have started shipping such products – the Google one is very well done and only sells for $200/$250.
An Apple e-mail that came to light during the Apple-Samsung lawsuit shows that Steve Jobs was interested in a 7-inch mini iPad. The e-mail was from Eddie Cue, Apple SVP of Internet software and services to other Apple executives, including the current CEO Tim Cook.
Cue said that after trying the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, he believed there was a market for tablets of that size, and that Apple should launch one. He said, “I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time.”
As might be expected of a type of product that Apple did not offer, Jobs had publicly belittled smaller tablets than the 10-inch iPad. He said users would have to sandpaper their fingers down to use the smaller tablets. Jobs had said, “There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.”
Of course, at that time Apple was already selling an even smaller “tablet,” the iPod touch whose use does not require skinny fingers.
There is some urgency for Apple to launch a smaller, low cost tablet. Amazon is gaining momentum with its $200 Kindle Fire, especially with book readers and has promised to launch more tablets. Samsung is doing well with its Android-based Galaxy Tab in Europe and Asia. Google’s $200/$250 Android-based Nexus 7 does everything an iPad does, except for the larger screen and iTunes, both the iTunes media player and the iTunes are in online stores.
A 10-inch version of the Google Nexus 7 would also take sales away from Apple, just as Android smartphones have taken market share away from iPhones.