iPad Mini Release Date News: Leaked Pics Confirm Design? Could 7-Inch Tablets Dominate Market?
Apple has hardly said a word about its fabled new 7-inch tablet, rumored to be called the iPad Mini, but if the company does indeed intend to release the device this fall, the timing couldn't be better for the company. Today, not only do we have possible leaked pictures of the iPad Mini via a Chinese website, but a new report from IHS says the demand for smaller, 7-inch screen models from other brands is growing quickly this year.
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We don't have to tell you the tablet market is poised for robust growth in 2012 and beyond. Google has already released its 7-inch tablet the Nexus 7. Amazon has recently released its second-generation tablet, the Kindle Fire HD in a cheaper 7-inch version.We already know that Samsung plans to release its not-quite-a-tablet-not-quite-a-phone Galaxy Note II, or "Phablet," on Oct. 21.
The combined demand for tablets, big or small, is projected to reach 126.6 million units shipped for 2012, an increase of 56 percent from last year's 82.1 million, according IHS.
For the moment, the 9.x-inch tablet market is the dominant one by far. Currently, approximately 74.3 million units, or 59 percent of all tablet display panel shipments are expected to be 9.x-inch models, iSuppli said. These tablet shipments are forecast to rise 35 percent this year, from 55.2 million units in 2011.
But the 7.x-inch tablet market is gaining fast. Shipments will amount to 41.1 million units this year, nearly double from 20.8 million units in 2011. Put another way, the 7.x-inch category will control 32 percent of the tablet display space this year, compared with 26 percent last year.
The tablet market's growth is being driven in large part by the emerging 7.x-inch form factor, according to new figures from IHS iSuppli.
iSuppli is not the only one tracking this trend.
"We have seen very strong growth in the 7-inch-sized tablet, and it is a trend that we think is very important to the industry," IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told the E-Commerce Times.
It is still smaller as a percentage of the total market, but it is clearly the fastest-growing segment, he said. "Will it become the dominant size in the tablet market? No, we don't think so -- but we do believe it will get very close."
Already, the 9.x-inch sector is giving up some market share in the face of growth this year, iSuppli said. The trend will accelerate as more of the lower-priced, smaller tablets come to market, including the widely anticipated 7.x-inch iPad Mini tablet from Apple.
There are, in fact, a lot of drivers behind the growth of the 7.x-inch tablet's share, with Apple's expected entry just one factor, Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told the E-Commerce Times.
The 7.x-inch tablet hits a sweet spot for a lot of consumers. King characterized the appeal, saying the 7-inch devices are small enough that they don't turn into a substitute for a laptop, which means they are easy to toss into a briefcase or purse. But larger than a smartphone and thus more attractive as a media consumption device.
"The 9-inch and 10-inch tablets are large enough that most people will make a choice to leave it or a laptop behind because it is too much to carry," King pointed out.
This dynamic will be a tricky one for Apple to navigate when it launches its 7-inch tablet, King continued.
"One of the reasons why the iPad was so successful was that the company was careful to make sure it did not overlap or erode sales of its standard Mac notebooks," he said. It was able to do that by keeping the operating systems and app ecosystems of the respective products entirely separate.
The question is, will Apple be able to keep its 7-inch tablet from cannibalizing the 10-inch? "It is a real danger, and it may be the reason why Apple has been resisting a smaller tablet," speculated King. "It is leery of putting out a similar device which is less money than the traditional iPad but still a better user experience than the iPhone."
The real losers this year? The 8-inch and 5-inch tablets, which will account for 9 percent and less than 1 percent of the market, respectively.