October 20, 2012, 7:45 AM — So, rumor has it that Apple will host an event on the imminent horizon--give or take two weeks--to announce a smaller iPad model. The "Apple iPad Mini" as it's been dubbed by the rumor mill, is expected to be a 7 or 8-inch sibling of the iPad, designed to compete with smaller tablet rivals like the Google Nexus 7, or the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.
There's never a shortage of gossip and rumors when it comes to mysterious new Apple products, but there does seem to come a point where the speculation reaches critical mass and it seems more likely than not that there's truth behind it. Assuming an iPad Mini is, in fact, impending, it will probably be a game changer.
Despite initial claims that the iPad is strictly a "media consumption device" not suited for business, the tablet continues to be widely adopted for business use across a variety of industries. Reports earlier this year indicated that 94 percent of the Fortune 500, and 70 percent of the Global 500 corporations were already testing or deploying the Apple tablet.
The sheer volume of quality apps has helped drive the dominance of the iPad, and the dominance of the iPad has helped drive interest from developers to create quality iOS apps. It's a self-feeding circle that has resulted in apps to perform virtually any business function you can think of.
Since the launch of the iPhone, and the original iPad, iOS integration with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync has evolved significantly. IT admins can exert a great deal of control over iOS devices through Exchange ActiveSync policies.
The reason that an iPad Mini could be a game changer is that it is expected to cost $250 or $300 tops. Other 7-inch tablets are available in the $200 to $250 range, so it makes sense that an iPad Mini would be around $250 in order to be competitive. As great as the iPad is, businesses are going to be inclined to get those same features and capabilities at half the cost if the iPad Mini pricing estimates are accurate.
For businesses that are already deploying iPhones and iPads, or allowing employees to use their own iOS devices in a BYOD (bring your own device) scenario, an iPad Mini will make perfect sense. The iOS platform, the apps, and the culture will all be consistent with what everyone is already used to.
Businesses that are more Android-oriented, or using Windows Phone or BlackBerry devices may need to look more closely at the potential value of an iPad Mini, and weigh the features and capabilities against Android equivalents, or the upcoming barrage of Windows 8 tablets like the Microsoft Surface.
Granted, this is all pure speculation. Why? Well, because officially there's no such thing as an iPad Mini, and nobody really has any clue what the features and capabilities of such a device will be if it does exist. As of right now, all we have are "leaked" images and information that might be fake, and hints of a possible Apple press event that was originally rumored to be this week, but pushed back to next week when no invitations arrived to confirm the first rumor.
So, maybe there will soon be an Apple iPad Mini. Maybe there won't. If there is, though, I think it's safe to assume it will have a seismic impact on the 7-inch tablet market. More importantly, if the price is right and the capabilities are remotely similar to those of the larger iPad, the iPad Mini could be an ideal device for business use.