Apple Conference Call
4Q 2010- Steve Jobs speaking: "we think the current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA, Dead on Arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the seven-inch bandwagon with an orphan product." Jobs went on to quip that unless the little tablets included sandpaper to reduce the size of customers' fingers, they wouldn't sell.
Tired of the "Jobs Wouldn't Have Done This" Line
I don't know about you, but I am tired of hearing this argument. Jobs made a lot of mistakes. Every time Apple is attacked by a negative blogger, we hear that Apple is DOA now that Jobs is no longer calling the shots. However, when I look over Apple's recent products, they appear to be Apple's best, and by a large margin. If anything, mid 2010 to very early 2012 seemed to have a lack of innovative new products. The Ipad 2 and the 4S were about it. While Jobs could have had a big input on the design of the mini, the 5, and the rest of the new products, most of them have about a year without any input from him. Jobs had that artistic and creative flair, but this quality can lead to problems. For instance, he was reportedly obsessed with the "perfect product." That mentality can and obviously did lead to excellence, yet it can also reject a lot of wonderful ideas, and I think the seven inch tablet is a great example. He did a few things right, too. The biggest were inventing the current smartphone and tablet markets (as we now know them). Recent estimates by Gartner were a total of about 800 million sales in 2012, growing to about 1.2 billion in 2013! Apple is in sort of a good spot. The "Apple is DOA" crowd is horribly mistaken in my opinion. In fact, Apple is sitting in the perfect spot--best in breed in one of the highest consumer growth markets we have ever seen. It dwarfs automobiles, light bulbs, and most other innovations in pure numbers. (It took light bulbs a much longer time to grow).
The Perfect Tablet
Many years ago, when I imagined what I thought the perfect future computing device would be, I pictured something like the mini. I called it an MID--a mobile internet device. However, the mini is much better than what I pictured. I have used it, and I have seen several others use it, and people absolutely love this form factor! My favorite quote was from a reviewer at the Register. Trying to be objective and not wanting to sound like a cultist, he quipped: "Call a doctor because - God forgive me for writing this - I love this tablet. Apple says: 'You won't be able to put it down.' Bang on." If you haven't experienced it, check it out. The full size iPad does have many advantages over its little brother, but the kid can play, and he has a number of advantages over his brother. Compact, sleek, fast (yes, it seems faster than the 4th Gen iPad on many tasks), and it just fits your hand. Perfect comes to mind. The fuss about the display is contrived and overdone. When a lower PPI is reviewed in full 1080P laptops, the display is called awesome. In fact, I'm not sure most people over the age of 40 could even see the difference without magnification. This is a great product. Remember, the key advantage of the iPad is size. The mini trumps it. I can think of a number of reasons why this form factor could be Apple's biggest volume product in the years ahead. I think Apple will sell hundreds of millions. It is emerging market cheap. It is a great invitation into IOS and other services. It is the perfect size for many businesses--from waitresses to doctors to store clerks--this thing has incredible potential. I expect the mini to be a major hit. Sorry, Steve.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.