Just like the BlackBerry two years ago, the iPad is ubiquitous on Wall Street. Apple has hardly changed the device since it took the consumer world – and subsequently the business world – by storm in 2010.
But now, it looks like Apple is about to mix things up a little. While Wall Street executives have long praised the tablet’s large “real estate”, the next generation iPad is likely to have a substantially smaller screen, bringing the device more in line with Apple’s competitors including Google’s Nexus 7.
Rumors swirling around the web suggest that iPad 4 will have a screen measuring 7 to 8 inches, diagonally, and won’t have the high-definition screen featured on the iPad that was released in March, according to Bloomberg’s sources. The current iPad screen measures 9.7 inches.
Reports claim that the iPad 4, which is expected to be released in October, will have the same number of pixels as those in the Apple tablet before it was upgraded to the Retina Display earlier this year, giving the device a resolution of 1024x768 pixels.
For Apple, the switch to a smaller screen will mean the Cupertino firm can cut prices on the device, providing a strong competitor for Google, Microsoft and Amazon tablets which both have 7-inch screens and cost $199.
Bloomberg reports that since the iPad went on sale in April 2010, Apple has dominated the tablet market, which is predicted by DisplaySearch to reach $66.4 billion this year. Apple has 61 percent of the market, according to Gartner.
The Apple tablet has also taken Wall Street by storm. Since its inception, most brokerages and even some institutional investment firms have released apps for the iPad.
Financial executives have been excited about the tablet’s large screen, and the ability to have a device that is always ‘on’ and can allow them to surf the web – or trade – instantly.
Rumors that iPad 4 will shrink come hot on the heels of rumors that iPhone 5, which is also expected to launch in the fall, will have a larger screen.
So where does that leave Wall Street executives? Many financial executives today are happy to leave their laptops in their desk drawers and travel with their iPads. A smaller device will be even easier to carry.
By offering up (if rumors are true) are smaller iPad and a larger-screen iPhone 5, Apple is effectively blurring the line between the different devices. People will likely still want to carry both the phone and the iPad, since they still serve different purposes. (And reading market news on the iPhone can still be frustrating).
[For more on iPhone 5, see "The iPhone5 Is Almost Here, And It's Going To Be Big".]
But for some, an iPad Mini – as iPad 4 is widely known in the blogosphere - is a bad idea.
For users, a smaller screen will mean it will be less fun and practical to watch videos and photos, and less space to have various applications open on the screen overall, Mashable suggests.
Even more than for users, it’s bad for developers, Mashable claims. But “the biggest loser will ultimately be Apple. A 7-inch iPad dilutes what the iPad is — the tablet all competing designs are held against — and is something Steve Jobs probably would never have approved,” the website argues.
When Jobs unveiled the original iPad, he explained that any device aiming to fill the gap between smartphones and laptops needed to be better at some key capabilities: browsing the web, reading and writing email, reading ebooks and watching videos among them, Mashable pointed out.
He famously brought up netbooks, immediately dismissing them as inferior for in all those respects. That set the stage, and the standard, for the iPad, which in turn set the expectation for all tablets that followed. But a 7-inch tablet is demonstrably inferior to the 10-inch experience in that same contest. The only benefit is portability, and Jobs himself said tablets with 7-inch screens were “dead on arrival” (although he was notorious for reversing himself, as his successor Tim Cook has said).
Jobs is no longer with us, of course, and the market has since seen the introduction of the Kindle Fire, which sold well during the holiday season (though excitement for it has appeared to have slowed down considerably since). Still, the case against a smaller iPad still stands, for the same reason Apple never made a netbook: it’s not better at anything.
It remains to be seen whether the iPad 4 naysayers (or even the rumors) are right. One financial executive I spoke to this week pointed out that many, long-sighted, older executives on Wall Street might not be that happy about having a smaller iPad screen.
Then again, most people are initially resistant to change. Just think how many people decry any change in any new design Facebook brings about, or how many people thought a phone without a keyboard would never work.
Facebook is still riding high, the iPhone has superseded long-entrenched BlackBerry in popularity at financial firms, and Wall Street executives are likely to love any new iPad, big or small.