Cook responded that Apple wouldn't make one of those 7-inch tablets, which they didn't consider good products for a number of reasons. The iPad mini, according to Cook both during the call and at Apple's iPad and Mac event previously, is 7.9-inches rather than 7-inches, and due to its 4:3 and 1024x768 pixel display, it has 35% more screen real-estate than a 7-inch, typically 16:9, tablet. Including the difference in landscape height, and depending on interface chrome, Cook said that translates into a 50-67% more space.
The iPad mini, because it has the same display as the iPad 2, only at a smaller size, can run all 250,000 iPad apps, compared to the tiny number of competing tablet apps.
Cook sees 7-inch tablets as compromised, and the iPad mini as being in a "whole different league".
When Steve Jobs first made his comments almost exactly 2 years ago, the 7-inch tablet market consisted primarily of the original Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the unveiled but not yet released BlackBerry Playbook.
Neither of those tablets were fantastic then, and while the Galaxy Tab has been replaced with new versions, and the BlackBerry Playbook will eventually be upgraded to BB10, neither have gained much traction since. The Amazon Kindle Fire is more a U.S.-centric content appliance than tablet, with otherwise middling hardware and software. Even the Nexus 7 remains more iPod touch than iPad, still lagging far behind in terms of tablet software.
You can argue Cook's screen size comparisons, but the build quality and software quality of the iPad mini can't be argued, nor can its international content offerings. Whether or not that puts it in a different league remains to be seen, but it's tough to see the iPad mini not becoming the best selling small tablet on the market. And quickly.