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The iPad Mini Conundrum

An open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook: Is the iPad Mini technology really what Apple is all about?

brunch Updated: Oct 27, 2012 17:05 IST
Rajiv Makhni

Dear Tim,

Hope things are good with you and your biking and hiking are going well. I am sure you are well rested after all the excitement and hard work you and your team put in to launch the iPad Mini. In fact, as I write this letter to you, I’m really hoping that – THAT is what you released. You see, I’m writing to you about six hours before your ‘We’ve got a little more to show you’ event. Yes, I know – that is bizarre, but it’s best if we don’t go down that route. It’s all to do with very stringent ‘going to print deadlines’ and a tough-as-nails editor who just won’t listen (and don’t get me started on how I have to literally go down on my knees and beg for a two-page column and get it once in six months!). So, like I said, I am really hoping you released an iPad Mini (or whatever you finally called it) or I’m going to look like a bit of a prat!

Timothy, I know life is hard right now – but you’ve really been hanging tough. After the serious bungle of calling the third iPad just an iPad (but that retina display really helped you pull that off), the disappointment of the iPhone 5 not having that one jaw-dropping Applish feature (but look at the sales of that phone) and the total disaster of your mapping technology (at least it got people to drive and walk on top off water) – you’re still forging ahead. I also know this whole Samsung patent war must be driving you batty with all these ups and downs. One day the court gives you $1.05 billion, and on another they ask you to publicly apologise to them. Wish they would just make up their minds if Samsung is or isn’t copying your products.

Why mini? A smaller iPad is just a business decision

Timmy, my man – I can well imagine what you feel when you sit at your office at 1, Infinite Loop (love that name) and make such critical decisions. After all, you head the world’s most valuable company that has more cash reserves than the US government (talk about pressure). One single mistake could wipe out that amazing Apple Fans club that is literally the backbone of all that you do. You’ve seen Apple shares zoom to $705 and then crash to $600 and you know firsthand the level of expectation people have from Apple. The world expects you to be on your toes, to come out with game-changing new devices every few days, to reinvent each category every time and to do a Steve Jobs every second of the day. Even though your compensation was valued at $378 million (which makes you the highest paid CEO in the world) – I don’t envy you, at all, Timmy. You’ve got big shoes and big coffers to fill.

But, Tim. This iPad Mini thing. I hope you’ve really though this out. I mean it’s a great idea and all business wise – but isn't this against the whole ethos of what Apple as a company stands for as also Steve Jobs’ vision? Steve did say that you guys would never get into the smaller 7-inch market for tablets as then he would also have to get all of us to file our fingers down to small pointy ends. He also did add that “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a Smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad.” I know, it’s smart that you didn’t go for a 7-inch and went for 7.85 inches and can now say that you haven’t gone against Steve’s wishes, but come on. Nobody’s really going to fall for that one. The iPad Mini is a business decision and it’s pretty obvious that you needed one bad!

Man on the move: Apple CEO Timothy Cook knows firsthand the level of expectation people have from Apple

First off, you’re trying to take on the might of the Kindle Fire, the Nook and the Google Nexus 7 tablet. Those really sold like wildfire and took away significant numbers from you. But an iPad Mini that takes those on means that those super fat margins that Apple operates on will be gone forever. After all even Amazon has agreed that they don’t make any money selling Kindle Fire hardware. Then there’s this beautiful focus you have with your product line. If I want a phone – it’s the iPhone and if I want a tablet – it’s the iPad. With the iPad Mini you’ve just made that fabulously distinctive product line get completely murky. Customers are going to be mightily confused now and an unfocussed Apple is the last thing this world needs. It also means cannibalisation from your own products. And anything that has cannibalisation and Apple in the same sentence is never a good thing. Add to this, the fact that to compete in this 7-inch area, you’ve got to be very well priced. Which means compromise on the product. The iPad Mini isn’t really a category changer, it’s not an innovators’ dream and it’s nowhere near the next big thing. It’s a lower specced, smaller tablet with no whiz-bang features. Apple is the technology leader, the jaw-dropper, the company that can go where no company has gone before. And the iPad Mini technology really isn't what Apple is all about, is it?

Tim, dude. I feel your pain. I really do. The pressure to perform is immense and to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes has got to be the hardest job ever. Business compulsions and the need to keep those Apple numbers still looking good forces you to do things you would never even think of otherwise. This will be the first time ever in Apple where the head rules the heart and business has over ruled true tech passion. Don’t worry too much about it, though. The iPad Mini will sell in great numbers, make your shareholders happy, make you look good and also help keep those million shares you have to grow into a bigger nest. With a heavy heart, I bid you goodbye and promise to write to you on the next big Apple launch.


Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, CellGuru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at /RajivMakhni

From HT Brunch, October 28

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