Steve Jobs was right about 7″ tablets

Apple had their quarterly earning call earlier this evening, and of course the rumored 7" iPad came up. Here's what Wired reported Steve Jobs as saying:

Presumably referring to Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy Tab and Research In Motion’s PlayBook — two 7-inch tablets hitting stores soon — Jobs said these devices were too small for a pleasant touchscreen experience.

“7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad,” said Jobs, adding that competing manufacturers were struggling to meet the price point of the iPad, which starts at $500. Both Samsung and RIM have not announced pricing on their tablets.

“These are among the reasons that the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival,” Jobs said during the earnings call.

I've had my hands on enough tablets that I agree with him.

As I see it, the 7" tablet isn't as useful as a 9" tablet and it's not as portable as a 5" (and smaller). I currently have a 7" and 10" tablet in hand, and I've tested several other 7" tablets. Trust me, the extra 2" (for the iPad) is worth it. It makes the screen significantly more usable and the tablet no less portable. Why do you think the iPad debuted with a 9" screen? They had to have tested this.

And if you go the other way and remove 2", you'll end up with something like the Archos 5IT (4.8" screen). I can hols the 5IT comfortably in one hand; I can't say the same for a 7" tablet. When you have a one handed device, you have the opportunity of walking while using it. That's just not possible with a 7" tablet.

I actually made a similar prediction during a presentation last Thursday. I didn't have the guts to post it, unfortunately; I was afraid the iPad Mini rumors were true. My prediction, actually, was that eventually everyone would figure out that 7" tablets were less useful and they'd be dropped from the market.

I'm not saying that the 7" tablet will die immediately; I'm expecting to see something similar to what happened to the 7" netbook. People eventually realized they didn't like it, so manufacturers simply stopped releasing new models. I expect the existing 7" tablets will age out of the market and not be replaced.

13 thoughts on “Steve Jobs was right about 7″ tablets

  1. That’s really interesting. I disagree – I think that 7″ is pretty optimal for something that will be an e-reader, browser, e-mail client, occasional video and game player.
    But perhaps I’m not the mainstream demographic. As a male with medium-to-large hands I find 7″ is great to hold in one hand for reading on, whereas 10″ is a little too large (or perhaps iPad is just a bit too heavy?); and I don’t want to edit office documents on a tablet.
    The accuracy of Steve’s prediction will be analysed to death I’m sure. Can’t wait to see how it goes.

    1. I just got a 7″ and love it. I played with the iPad too but 7″ is a much better size if you use it as a portable device. The question is, do you buy what you like or what Steve Jobs wants you to buy?

  2. I think he’s probably right. I for one don’t want to read a book on an LCD. I have a six inch Kindle for that. I completely hate ebooks on my iPad. So I use it for surfing and reading news sites, light gaming and I’m sure once multitasking kicks in ill find new uses.

    Right now it feels like Samsung and others are rushing to market and tossing out anything to see what sticks.

    1. Dear Sire, the Samsung galaxy tab isn’t just anything. Hast thou reviewed the specs? Trust me if that device came out before the iPad, the latter would be a loser.

  3. I am not sure people who are owners of the IPOD Touch would agree with JOBS about his view of a 7″ inch IPAD. If apple came out with one in the $350 range I think they would sell quite well.

  4. Full webpages are already difficult to read on the iPad, I couldn’t imagine 7″ to be usable without using mobile versions of the website, and then what’s the point?

    I expect the 7″ers to be boosted by the “it’s not an iPad” factor for a while, then die off.

  5. I still haven’t figured out what the iPad is useful for…
    I’ve tried one, but I really don’t understand what’s its purpose…

    What iPad users actually *do* with the device?

  6. There is 7″ and there is 7″. The 7″ers coming out are all 16:9 proportions. The iPad is 4:3 — like the Pandigital Novel and Cruz Reader. That makes a huge difference. Jobs’ tune will change when a 7″ Retina Display is available. Hell, it might arrive first for a 7″ screen vs a 9″ screen.

    I went and looked up the spec of the original 1984 Mac. Says it had a 9″ screen. I don’t recall it seeming as roomy as an iPad screen, though. I think the actual display area was smaller, which tends to refute Jobs’ spin about “expressing software.”

  7. I’d be inclined to agree that, if you are moving toward the iPad model, 10 or even 12″ is the place to land. Then you have enough real estate for quasi newspaper-like layouts, taking notes, side-bars, more impactful magazine layouts, larger maps, etc.

    But I did test-drive (briefly) a 7″ model and I have to say I was impressed — and it’s quite portable. I think we’ll have to wait and see what the public actually thinks. As a largely playback only device, 7″ might be a winner.

  8. Well, there seems to be a different perspective on the matter which I’m inclined to believe!

    Jobs does know how to crank the propaganda machine though. May be it’s too soon to speak, time is a revealer of many things, and time and chance happeneth to them all.

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