Shockingly, Steve Jobs wasn't against the idea of an iPad mini...

In 2011, Apple SVP of Internet Services, Eddy Cue, apparently emailed Apple SVP of iOS, Scott Forstall, that Apple's then CEO, the late Steve Jobs was open to the idea of a Samsung Galaxy Tab sized iPad mini. This came to light as part of the ongoing Apple vs. Samsung, according to The Verge's Bryan Bishop:

Forstall is shown a 2011 email from Eddy Cue, in which Cue forwarded an article that a journalist wrote about dumping the iPad after using a Galaxy Tab. Cue writes "Having used a Samsung Galaxy [Tab], i tend to agree with many of the comments below... I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one. I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time."

One of the most oft-repeated, and often taken out of context, criticisms levied against the very idea of a 7.x-inch iPad is that in October of 2010, Steve Jobs said that 7-inch tablets were terrible and would be DOA when they hit the market.

That's the same Steve Jobs, of course, who once said no one wanted to watch video on an iPod, before introducing the iPod video, and that Apple would never make a phone, before introducing the iPhone, and that no one wanted to read, before introducing iBooks.

The public statements of CEO's are just that -- public statements, with all the strategy, including misdirection, that that can imply. They're not indicative of anything other than they're exactly what a CEO, in this case Steve Jobs, wants everyone to hear at a certain point in time.

This email correspondence between on the other hand, if accurate, is different. It's an internal communication. It's what Eddy Cue wanted Scott Forstall to hear at that specific point in time.

It doesn't negate any effect Steve Jobs saying 7-inch tablets were terrible could have on the likelihood of Apple making an iPad mini, however, because there never was any beyond misquotes and misunderstandings.

The 7-inch tablets Jobs was referring to were exactly that -- 7-inches in size, made by competitors, not running iPad iOS, and were, frankly, terrible and were, as it turns out, DOA.

What it does show is, perhaps, part of Apple's process and thinking around bringing the rumored iPad mini to market, and their timeline. And that's interesting.

Tim Cook once said the thing that most impressed him about Steve Jobs was Jobs' ability to change his mind, and to change direction with incredible speed.

If and when Apple chooses to release an iPad mini, it will be different in kind from existing small form factor tablets that were on the market at the time. Whether it succeeds or not, it will be different than what Steve Jobs was referring to in 2010 -- it will be what he was "receptive" to in 2011, and for very specific reasons.

It won't be a 7-inch tablet. It'll be a 7.85-inch or thereabouts iPad.

Source: The Verge

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Shockingly, Steve Jobs wasn't against the idea of an iPad mini...

10 Comments

Do whatcha gotta do, Apple.
I prefer the current iPad, but what I realize, and what many other people need to realize who are in a huff about it - it's not all about what I want.

Make some money and make people happy with a wider array of products :)

He didn't just say that 7-inch tablets made at that time by competitors were bad, he said that Apple worked on 7-inch tablets and couldn't make it work, because it was just the wrong size.

Now we know he was just trash-talking competitors. Makes me wonder, how much of what he said was vision, how much was marketing. Maybe in a next e-mail we'll learn that he was a big fan of task managers, or that he wanted a stylus for the iPhone 4.

"I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time."

This shows Steve was against it but came around, the showings of a solid leader (listen to the smart folks you've put in place). He said what he believed at the time and was eventually convinced otherwise.

Re: "It won't be a 7-inch tablet. It'll be a 7.85-inch or thereabouts iPad."

Agree. Doing a little simple math, we find that a 7.85" diagonal screen gives more than 25% more screen area than a 7.00" diagonal screen (assuming the same 2:3 aspect ratio.)

7.00" diagonal iPad mini -> 4.210" x 5.599" -> 23.57 square inches
7.85" diagonal iPad mini -> 4.717" x 6.274" -> 29.59 square inches

That 25% larger screen area translates into 25% larger tap targets, UI elements, etc. (with the same pixel geometry.) That might be enough to avoid the need to sharpen one's fingertips...

Also, it may well be that a 7" or even 7.85" isn't the optimal size, but that enough market research has indicated that the target audience is willing to put up with that as a trade-off for the smaller size.

For example, I wouldn't want a ~7" tablet, as even the current iPad is approaching being too small so as to impact productivity. But, what the iPad isn't as convenient for is sticking into a more purse-sized bag or holding for more extended periods of reading on a train, etc. My guess is that there are a LOT of people who would make such a tradeoff for the convenience of the smaller size... so long as the experience isn't too badly impacted. And, even with a degraded experience, it will still probably be head and shoulders above the Android competition or Kindles, etc.

For those of us that commute on mass transit daily I agree. I have two 7 inch tablets that I use on the nyc subways often but I also watch videos on my 4s on the train. 7ish is a great size for portability and quick ease of use. I personally (yes my own opinion) would never whip out a 10+ inch tablet on the train to watch a movie or read a book/other media.

Soooo, shockingly, Steve Jobs own voice is no good, but this hearsay of Bishop saying that Cue said that Jobs said is somewhat more valid?? Really??

Here is the whole quote, not to be accused of taking anything out of context. Not only Jobs was against it, but he also said why:

"If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on the seven-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display. This size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion.
Well, one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference. It is meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size. Apple's done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.
Third, every tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone, its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse, its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to fit a tablet in our pockets is clearly the wrong trade-off. The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad."

Sorry here's the rest of the 7 inch tirade by Steve Jobs, and not a "he said that he said that he said":

"Fourth, almost all of these new tablets use Android software, but even Google is telling the tablet manufacturers not to use their current release, Froyo, for tablets, and to wait for a special tablet release next year. What does it mean when your software supplier does not (inaudible) to use their software in your tablet? And what does it mean when you ignore them and use it anyway?
Fifth, iPad now has over 35,000 apps on the App Store. This new crop of tablets will have near zero. And sixth and last, our potential competitors are having a tough time coming close to iPad's pricing, even with their far smaller, far less expensive screens. The iPad incorporates everything we have learned about building high value products from iPhones, iPods, and Macs. We create our own A4 chip, our own software, our own battery chemistry, our own enclosure, our own everything. And this results in an incredible product at a great price. The proof of this will be in the pricing of our competitor's products, which will likely offer less for more.
These are among the reasons we think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA, dead on arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphan product. Sounds like lots of fun ahead."

Times change. The first iPad faced limitations in screen technology, memory cost, processing speed even battery capacity. It was also a punt to see if the idea would fly - which it clearly did.

The new iPad pushed all boundaries, except for size. Faced with today's options Jobs might well have said yes. He also told them; don't just sit their and ask what Steve would do.