Steve Jobs' surprise appearance on Apple's Q4 conference call, and his utter annihilation of the 7-inch tablet concept, means Apple will never, not ever release a 7-inch tablet... or is planning to release one very, very soon.

Highlights, paraphrased:

  • SJ: Other tables appear to be just a handful of credible entrants. Almost all use 7" screens compared to iPad 10". Would offer 70% of benefits. But only 45% as large because of diagonal measure. 7" screens a bit smaller than bottom half of iPad screen. Not big enough to make great tablet apps.
  • SJ: Apple has done extensive testing, really understand this stuff. Limits to how close you can place elements for usability. Why 10" is minimum size for great tablet apps.
  • SJ: Every tablet user is also smartphone user. No tablet can fit in your pocket. Giving up precious diplay area to fit tablets in pockets isn't the way to go. Tweeners.
  • SJ: Many use Android software, even Google, tells manufacturers not to use Froyo. What does it mean when your software supplier says not to use the software and you ignore it?
  • SJ: iPad now has more than 35,000 apps. New tablets will have 0.
  • SJ: Competitors have a tough time coming close to iPad pricing even with smaller screen. Apple creates own chip, battery chemistry, enclosure, everything. Incredible product, incredible price. Competitors will likely offer less for more.
  • SJ: New crop of tablets will likely be DOA. Too small. Will increase size next year, abandon customers and developers who went 7-inch.
  • SJ: Reason they wouldn't make 7-inch tablet isn't because of price point, it's because they think it's too small to express the right software. Apple is a software-first company. Developers aren't going to deal really well with different screen sizes, when they can't put enough elements on screen to build the apps they want to build. 7-inches isn't about cost, it's about value when you factor in software.
  • SJ: Can't assume software will take care of itself. Can't just put in less memory, slower processor, assume software will come alive. It won't.

So do any of those points ring true to you? Was Jobs giving his true feelings or just setting the market up for a surprise 7-inch iPad next year?