Why Small Is Big
Today's expected announcement of a smaller iPad is a very big deal. Here's why: Unlike the original iPad, it's truly mobile. The iPad Mini, or Air, or whatever Apple chooses to call it has the potential to replace its big brother as a daily companion for e-mail, texting and browsing. It nicely splits the difference between a phone and a laptop, enough so to justify its weight in a briefcase or purse. The original iPad has been forced into makeshift roles as a laptop or camera, when in fact it is neither. For a 10-inch tablet, there's no place like home, in the living room or bedroom.
The iPad Mini, on the other hand, is destined for the classroom. Its anticipated pricepoint makes it attractive for schools looking to outfit their students with high-tech alternatives to books. The smaller iPad will fit nicely into a backpack, and even better into a municipal budget that needs to accommodate hundreds of students. Expect this to be the device that unlocks education as a game-changing market for tablets, creating new opportunities for publishers with an influx of users accustomed to accessing content from a digital device.
Starting today, publishers finally have a business case for creating content for multiple screen sizes. The Mini will likely share a 4:3 aspect ratio with other iPads, but the smaller screen will force publishers to choose between one-size-fits-all design, separate layouts for each device, or responsive HTML that reconfigures itself for each screen.
It's worth considering the phone as yet a third destination, and finding ways to address each platform independently. We're currently developing apps for iPhone, Kindle Fire and iPad, each requiring a separate approach to make content accessible for that device. It's not only hardware and software driving those decisions, but differences in how people use phones, small tablets and large tablets. The smaller the screen, the smaller the attention span. Which forces developers to give users of smaller screens something to do with their content — utilities that provide a reason for accessing an app on the go.
More to come, not only after today but after the holiday season, when consumers will decide whether Apple can cripple Amazon's Kindle Fire and crush Barnes & Noble's Nook, whether aggressive publishers can win big by targeting specific devices, and more. Stay tuned.