Playbook and the war of inches

Posted on by Mike Evans

BlackBerry's new tablet, the Playbook, has a lot going for it except the name. Surely this is the most ridiculous brand name. It sounds more like a child's ABC than a serious business tool which is what RIM would have us believe.

If you can get around the name, though, it has a number of interesting attributes, not least of which are the front and rear facing cameras. For me, though, the crucial statistic is the 7-in screen. For over a year we have been reading rumours of a mini-iPad from Apple. It has been denied, but I am convinced that a smaller iPad is about to be unveiled, probably next January. In the light of RIM's announcement and the interest caused by the Samsung Galaxy, Apple would be mad not to give very serious thought to a seven-incher.

Ever since I got my iPad my main concern has been size and weight. It is so unwieldy that it now stays at home most of the time and I am thinking of cancelling my 3G contract. A seven-inch screen, with a pro-rata weight reduction, would do wonders for the iPad. It would also be a much more serious book reader and business tool.

Undoubtedly there will be a place for the current iPad configuration - all those millions of buyers can't be wrong - but I believe a smaller version would expand Apple's market share and, more to the point, compete on equal terms with the opposition.

When you have to carry a computer or tablet around with you every day size does matter. That's why netbooks have become so popular. I'm therefore not surprised to read more rumours about a smaller MacBook Air. Apple, who have repeatedly stated they are not in the netbook market, have missed a trick by no moving sooner to a smaller Air. The current model, good as it is, has languished simply because it is difficult to justify in comparison with the same-footprint MacBook Pro. Shave a couple of inches off the screen size, retain the slimness of the current Air and I think the Air Lite would be a winner.

Whatever happens, Apple have a head start in the lightweight computing market thanks to the overwhelming success of the iPad. It would be a pity if they fail to consolidate this with a mid-sized product to compete directly with the new crop of 7-in screen devices.

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