After months of speculation and rumors, Apple (IW 500/9) CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the California Theatre in San Jose yesterday to unleash two new iPads into the world.
One of those, of course, was the much-anticipated iPad Mini, which -- if the applause it generated is any indication -- was the real draw for the packed house of Apple aficionados.
Cook deferred to Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for marketing, for the actual unveiling, which Schiller managed with classic Apple prestidigitation.
"This," he told the eager audience after a surprise glimpse, "is iPad mini. This isn't just a shrunken down iPad; it's an entirely new design."
At .68 pounds and just 7.2 millimeters thick the 7.9 inch device is one of the smallest, lightest and thinnest tablet on the market -- thinner than a pencil and lighter than a pad of paper, Schiller noted -- and still capable of running the over 250,000 iPad apps without trouble.
"We want an iPad capable of running all that amazing software written for iPad without the developers having to do any work," Schiller said. "We wanted it to be smaller such that it could be thinner and lighter, as you can see, but not so small that it stops being usable."
Also announced at the event was the release of the fourth generation of the full 9.7 inch iPad. Coming only seven months after the release of the so-called "New iPad" -- suddenly referred to as the "third generation" during the event -- this new new iPad boasts double the processing speed and a few notable cosmetic and hardware changes.
To these improvements, Schiller joked, "We were already so far ahead of the competition, but with this, I can't even see them in the rearview mirror."
This note about the competition was no subtle jab. With these announcements, Apple seems keenly aware of what is becoming a rather saturated tablet market.
Taking on the Competition
"Two weeks ago, we sold our 100 millionth iPad," Cook told the crowd. "In the office, in the field, in places you could never dream of seeing a PC, iPad is showing up more and more."
And it's no wonder.
Given the different configurations a options available for each model, after the iPad 4 and iPad Mini hit the streets, there will be 14 different iPads to choose from. Add to that the competition from Androids, the Kindle Fire and soon Microsoft's Surface, just to name a few, and the market is starting to seem rather crowded.
With this added pressure from its competitors and its own excessive product line, Apple can no longer rest on its laurels or rely on its dedicated followers -- chances are they already have brand new iPads. So the company is starting to get aggressive.
"Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad, and they have failed miserably," Schiller said to cheers. "Those are not great experiences."
To drive the point, he launched into a lengthy side-by-side comparison between the iPad Mini and an Android tablet, highlighting some impressive size and weight differences between the two -- the iPad Mini has a 35% larger screen, for example, which provides 67% larger image space for web browsing in landscape mode.
The timing of the event also struck many as an aggressive move against Microsoft (IW 500/15), coming only three days before the release of its Surface tablet, and even coordinating orders for the iPad Mini to begin on October 29, just a week after the Surface hits.
It is impossible to guess how this competition will play out or how the market will respond to such an over-saturated product line, but it will be an interesting story to watch unfold.
Regardless of how this competition plays out, with a new iPhone, new operating systems, a bag full of tablets and software already on the market this year, Cook's closing statement surely rings true -- for better or worse: "It has been a truly prolific year of innovation for Apple."