Apple’s Dilemma: The 7-Inch iPad

For a device owning the tablet space, Apple seems more reactive than proactive lately. As rumors continue to circulate about a 7-inch iPad, what is Apple thinking? By offering the Nexus 7 at $200, Google has conceded the high-end tablet market for now. Where unlike the iPhone, Apple’s iPad could exist virtually uncontested in its price range. It’s just up to Apple to convince the buyer to shell out an extra $300 – something they have done successfully for years.

Back in 2010, Apple made its iPad seem like a steal at $500, the same way the Nexus 7 seems like one at $200 now. As they reimagined their products, Steve Jobs never considered to be in competition with other companies (tell that to Google), but rather focused on making the best products they could – whatever the cost. Jobs always reiterated that if potential customers vote for your products, you get to go to work tomorrow. Even though the Nexus 7 has been positively received, buyers are still voting for the iPad in overwhelming numbers – even at $500. All Apple needs to do is continually redefine what a $500 steal in the tablet market is, as opposed to cutting features to reach a market they created in the first place.

One of Apple’s problems is that since 2010, the iPad hasn’t really changed that much, but price has remained the same. This has given time for others to catch up and cut cost. Where before, Apple would quickly sprint ahead just as the others got close.

Sure, Apple has its examples of cheaper alternatives like the iPod Nano to iPod Touch or the MacBook Air to MacBook Pro. All of these products have been successful in their own space – but the iPad and iPhone are different. Both created markets that just didn’t exist before 2007 or 2010, and both represent symbols and leaders in each market currently. By creating a smaller tablet potentially without a Retina Display, 3G connectivity, and other features, this could cheapen a brand Apple has worked hard to build. As well as admit publicly to consumers that you may have never needed these features to begin with.

No one would debate that a potential iPad Mini would be widely successful, but it dilutes a premise Steve Jobs developed surrounding innovation, not capitulation. If Apple is making a smaller iPad, they’re doing it not because they want to, but because they think they need to. Steve Jobs called 7-inch tablets “dead-on-arrival,” obviously he was wrong, but a 7-inch iPad speaks about a changing Apple reacting to markets as opposed to making them.

Many customers may wonder how Google can offer a 1.3 GHz quad-core CPU and 12-core GPU for $200 with the Nexus 7, when the iPad hosts only a 1 GHz dual-core CPU and quad-core GPU for $500. This should not deter Apple, it should drive them to innovate. Why lower the price and cut features, when you could offer more and freeze price? This is what leaders do.

Apple has never revoked features to reduce cost in the past. When Apple failed to offer Flash support, it was because Jobs thought it was unsecure, slow, and clunky. When Apple removed optical drives, they had already moved to an online app store. These were not cost cutting choices, but rather successful bets made on industry trends. If Apple removes features, by allowing others to force their hand, it will be the biggest deviation away from a company that traditionally stood behind its principles – no matter what.

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