Smaller iPad could be a better business tool

A 7-inch iPad may hit the sweet spot--or be a doomed "tweener" device.

The Apple iPad has been an unqualified success with consumers, but it's a harder sell in the businesse market. It's relatively bulky and heavy for a mobile device, and it doesn't support Adobe Flash, although third-party vendors are providing clever workarounds. Its native printing skills are dismal, and it lacks a camera for video conferencing.

But if recent rumors are true, Apple is developing a smaller version of the iPad with a 7-inch touchscreen. The device may ship by the end of the year, according to Taiwan's Economic Daily News.

Given the plethora of iPad-like tablets now arriving, including the elfin Dell Streak with its smartphone-like dimensions, it's logical for Apple to expand its tablet offerings. The original iPad, with its 9.7-inch display, works well as a media-consumption device, but business travelers may prefer a smaller gadget with similar capabilities, particularly if they're not planning to watch Netflix videos on the road.

For business travelers, a 7-inch inch iPad could hit the sweet spot, particularly if it (like the Dell Streak) allows you to make voice calls. Yes, we're talking about a very, very big phone here. Few of us would want to hold a 7-inch iPad to our ear to make a call, but that's what Bluetooth earpieces are for. On the plus side, travelers could carry one mobile device rather than two--a phone and tablet/laptop.

For Apple, the risk is that its baby iPad could become a doomed tweener device: Too big to match a smartphone's pocket-sized portability; and yet too small to provide the ergonomic benefits of a full-sized tablet. Consider the Streak, for instance. With its 5-inch display, Dell's diminutive slate is a middle-of-the-road oddity that may struggle to find a niche in either the business or consumer space.

Of course, any new iPad, small or large, will give Apple an opportunity to correct the shortcomings of the original model. Adding a camera and better printing features would be a good start.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter http://twitter.com/jbertolucci or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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