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Apple’s iPad Mini could be a hit in education, but its business appeal is more of a mixed bag

by Doug Drinkwater

August 24 2012

Teachers and students could quickly learn to love a smaller, less expensive iPad.
Teachers and students could quickly learn to love a smaller, less expensive iPad.

A smaller iPad is bound to have success with consumers, but could well attract use in business, healthcare and education, according to market observers.

The iPad Mini rumor mill is in overdrive, and lips are salivating at the prospective rivalry between Apple, Amazon and Google in the lower end of the consumer tablet space.

If reports are to be believed, the iPad Mini will have a 7.85-inch display, 16GB of memory, run iOS 6 and will debut at $299 when announced alongside the iPhone 5 on September 12 (other reports say later next month). 

Apple will most likely pitch this tablet as a consumer device, but given the enterprise success of its bigger brother, is it wrong to assume Apple won't attract business users once again? A number of industry experts think the iPad Mini might just have a chance.

Smaller iPad could be big news in education

The consensus seems to be that of all the markets, a smaller and cheaper iPad could have significant impact in education.

“It would clearly have some traction in education based on a low price and small size. It might also have some applications for field worker for whom an iPad is too large to hold”, said Stephen Baker, VP of industry analysis at the NPD Group.

Ben Bajarin, TabTimes columnist and principal at Creative Strategies, thinks the tablet may appeal to young children, but reckons that success may be limited as schooling invariably becomes more serious.

“I could see 7-inch working in K-5 for example but once you start getting into text books I am not so sure.”

Others in the education industry appear more upbeat on the chances of the iPad Mini, as well as other 7-inch tablets. Paul Fisher is director of the Teaching, Learning & Technology Center at Seton Hall University which is planning to deploy Windows 8 tablets. But Fisher sees the iPad Mini as a boon to professional students.

“I think a device that is bigger than a phone but both capable of being held in one hand and specifically have the use of a pen can be very attractive to higher education.

“Let’s take the educational experience outside of the classroom for a minute. Imagine a medical student who is at the bed side working with a patient. They can’t flip a 10-inch tablet out of their lab coat to document symptoms, run a calculation on BMI or check the correct amount of a prescription for a patient of a certain age, weight and health.

“Or imagine a chemistry or biology student in the lab performing experiments. Many of them still use pen and paper solely, but give these students an iPad Mini and suddenly they can make their observations electronically, take pictures of chemical reactions or track results of a dissection. 

“A 7” tablet is perfect for a student at the bedside, in the lab or in the field," he says.

Mobility may help iPad Mini adoption in enterprise

Most analysts we spoke to dismissed the iPad Mini as a tool for enterprise, owing mostly to its smaller display size or ability to do serious work.

Jordan Stolper, CEO and founder of iPad sales presentation outfit StoryDesk, concedes that he couldn’t see the tablet as a tool for presentations, while analysts like Context’s Salman Chaudhry can't see Apple marketing the new tablet as a tool for business, as it did with the iPad 2 and 3.

Others, however, were more receptive to the idea, with Gartner’s Carolina Milanesi and ABI Research’s Jeff Orr both suggesting a 7-inch iPad Mini could gain traction where mobility is key in enterprise.

“I would expect that enterprise users looking for a replacement device for their PC might not want to compromise on the screen size under 10-inch”, admitted Milenasi. “However, there might be users who have lighter content creation needs, a higher mobility need."

Added Orr: “Regardless of brand, 7-inch tablet opportunities in the workplace are primarily around more mobile use cases where the device is carried and used throughout the work day.”

“We see a lot of one-handed applications for 7-inch tablets compared to two hands needed for operating the larger 10-inch devices," he said.

Apple is reportedly to set to pump out four million iPad Minis in September, while earlier reports had hinted at six million being shipped in Q3. Either way, it looks like there are going to be a lot of iPad Minis (or whatever Apple ends up calling it). Whether businesses jump in early remains to be seen.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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