Just as Google releases a 7-inch tablet that the techies actually like, the rumor mill has resurrected that old Apple seven inch tablet rumor, making Steve Jobs' nightmare of a smaller iPad seem more likely now than ever. It feels like some kind of sign that the same day noted Apple-phile David Pogue lauds the smaller Google tablet, calling it a "Rival to the Tablet Leader," The Wall Street Journal's Lorraine Luk cites mysterious sources who say (again) that Apple has told its Foxconn workers to prepare for a 7-inch tablet. Of course, we know by now that Apple rumors, even from the most prestigious of sources, are never ever to be taken as facts, but considering the fact that Google just released a cheap, small tablet that, unlike the Kindle Fire, doesn't feel chintzy, it makes sense Apple would want to put out a smaller version of its groundbreaking device. That is, minus one big thing: Steve Jobs would not approve. Then again, Steve Jobs isn't around to disapprove. And, well, things are different around Apple these days.
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Back in 2010, Jobs swore off the 7-inch tablet. "The reason we [won't] make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit [a lower] price point," All Things D's John Packowski quoted him as saying. "It’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software driven company, we think about the software strategies first." Two years later, we can see how Apple might not abide by this Jobsian edict anymore. Let's take a look.
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Then: Apple didn't have real competitors.
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Now: Apple has not one but two undercutters, with the Google Nexus presenting a nicer $200 option than the Amazon Kindle Fire, which only made a mini-scrape in Apple's sales. The Nexus 7 givecs consumers two somethings the iPad does not: affordability and compactibility. As Pogue puts it:
The iPad still makes a far more compelling total package (hardware, software, store). But at 9.7 inches, you’ll never fit that puppy into your breast pocket. If something smaller and lighter and far less expensive appeals to you, you’ll be thrilled by the Nexus 7, even if you have to wait awhile before you can find everything you want to read, watch and play on it.
Then: Apple was obsessed with leading, not following.
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Now: As with iTunes, Apple suddenly takes notes from competitors. Though Apple still gets in patent wars with copycats like Samsung, it hasn't stopped the company from looking to more successful competitors, like Spotify, for ways to move its products forward.
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Then: No Retina display.
Now: As far as the hardware being able to express the software, at least on the pixel density front, Apple has those fancy Retina display screens people can't stop looking at. That would appease Jobs just a little bit, no?
Then: Steve Jobs
Now: Tim Cook. As we've seen, Cook is much more business minded than Jobs ever was. We imagine it would hurt his corporate soul to let Google steal all those competitors away, just as it would hurt Jobs soul to copy the ultimate copy-cats at Google.
Like we said, as far as rumors go, this one gets as much credibility as every other Apple rumor ever. (None.) But, barometric conditions have changed since Jobs ran the show, so who says the dimensions can't, too?