Less than three years ago, Apple boss Steve Jobs famously proclaimed that 7-inch tablets would be dead on arrival. However, according to the latest NPD DisplaySearch statistics, small tablets are doing rather well and Apple’s own iPad mini is overtaking full size iPads.
The iPad mini got a lukewarm reception when it launched last year. Many tech hacks did not like it, although the usual shills went out of their way to prove that it is the best thing since sliced bread, but on the whole it was just a repackaged iPad 2 with a somewhat smaller screen. However, it did have a couple of things going for it. It was a lot smaller and lighter than 9.7-inch iPads, and it launched at $329.
Many didn’t believe Apple would experience much cannibalisation, as the iPad 3, with its gorgeous Retina display, was in a league of its own a year ago and the iPad mini seemed like a compromised product with subpar specs. It was thought there was enough of a gap between the two form factors to prevent cannibalisation. That assumption was wrong.
NPD’s figures show that shipments of 9.7-inch panels fell off a cliff over the past couple of months. Total shipments in December were 7.4 million, but late last year Apple kindly asked Sharp to reduce production to a minimum, so January shipments were just 1.3 million. Meanwhile shipments of 7.9-inch panels increased, hitting 5 million units in January.
NPD DisplaySearch reckons Apple was planning to ship 100 million iPads in 2013, but that figure has now been revised to 88 million units. Apple originally expected it could sell 60 million 9.7-inch iPads and 40 million minis, but now it seems that it will sell just 33 million 9.7-inchers and a whopping 55 million iPad minis.
Apple was never afraid of cannibalisation. If it came up with a new product, it would let it eat into sales of existing products, no questions asked. It is better to cannibalise your own sales than to have someone else do it for you. However, Apple might be getting a bit more cannibalisation than it bargained for, coming from a dead-on-arrival 7-inch tablet. It is also worth noting that the iPad mini was the first iOS product Steve Jobs did not sign off on. Intel has never mastered the art of cannibilisation.