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The iPad Mini: Is it a pointer to Apple's declining innovation?

The iPad Mini: Is it a pointer to Apple's declining innovation?

News from Taiwan’s component-makers suggests Apple has ordered a mind-blowing 10 million iPad Minis ahead of the pared-down tablet’s mooted release at the start of November.

That points to Cupertino thinking that it’ll easily be able to shift a huge number of its budget slate ahead of Christmas, blowing the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 out of the water in the process.

That’s great news for Apple’s bank balance and ever-increasing share price. But while it will undoubtedly snare millions of new consumers into Apple’s hard-to-escape ecosystem, but the extent to which it brngs anything new to the table is a lot less clear.

The iPad remains, by some distance, the best-selling tablet out there. In its last reported quarter, Apple said it had sold 17 million iPads.

apple wwdc 2012

Samsung, Google and Amazon, for all their increasingly impressive efforts, just cannot compete with those figures. But in terms of innovation, the iPad just isn’t cutting edge. Of course, Apple knows this and always makes devices that put its excellent user experience front and centre.

But with the iPad Mini, it’s saying it is content to dilute the iPad brand with a device that is essentially a smaller iPad 2.

That will of course mean it can scale its iPad business to new heights, much as it did with the iPod mini and iPod nano. But as we’ve seen with the iPhone 5, Apple doesn’t seem too concerned with reinventing the wheel anymore.

Rather it looks as if it’s happy to release incremental changes, dressed up as revolutionary updates, and watch as the world goes crazy.

That’s understandable, but is it sustainable? Apple can scale the iPad for a few years, but like the iPod, the love for it will fade over time. This is simply the nature of new hardware.

2013 looks set to be another year of incremental changes, with a probable iPhone 5S following that pattern of the 3GS and 4S in previous years.

Likewise the new, full-sized iPad will probably feature a snappier processor, with a similar screen and slimmer design. Think iPad and then iPad 2. For now, this isn’t an issue for Apple.

ipad 3 smaller

But in a few years, it really could be. It’s not just fanboys that want to see innovation.

Without taking giant leaps and attempting something truly revolutionary, the wider public could easily tire. The iPad Mini, like the iPhone 5, will obviously sell at a never-before-seen rate.

But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s little of the excitement that surrounded Apple announcements three or four years ago.

That is surely something that Tim Cook will need to change in the years ahead.

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