This post is adapted from one that first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
by Larry Magid
Although Apple won’t say for sure, it’s extremely likely that its news conference scheduled for Wednesday will be to announce a new iPhone. There are also rumors Apple will hold another event, likely in October, to announce an iPad mini.
We will likely see a new iPhone that’s slightly thinner and taller than the current iPhone 4s. That rumor was reinforced at the IFA trade show I attended in Berlin last week, where a case maker showed off a prototype of what appears to be the next iPhone. Also, the new phone is expected to support the cell phone carriers’ faster 4G mobile broadband networks. Of course, details about this phone are still in the rumor stage so don’t blame me if they all turn out to be false.
Although I’m eager to get my hands on the new iPhone, I’m more excited about the possibility of an “iPad mini” emerging later this fall. All three iPad models thus far have 9.7-inch (diagonal) screens. But if rumors are true, the mini will have a 7.85 inch screen.
If so, the new iPad will be a lot closer to the size of the various 7-inch Android tablets from Google (GOOG), Samsung and other companies. Although no Android tablet is nearly as popular as the iPad, the most popular Android tablets (including the original Amazon Kindle Fire) have 7-inch screen
I’m hoping the rumors are true because as much as I like iPads, I find myself more attracted to the various 7-inch tablets I’ve used, because they’re a lot more portable. These devices can fit into most suit-coat pockets and even pants pockets, and they’re a bit lighter. I use a 7-inch tablet to read and watch video and find it just as pleasant as using an iPad. The best device is the one that you have with you and, because it’s easier to carry around, I’m far more likely to carry my 7-inch Android tablet than my larger iPad, even though I do have a slight preference for Apple’s software.
The larger iPad is better if you have to type on the screen because there is room for a larger virtual keyboard. But like many tablet owners, I mostly use mine to consume information rather than to create it.
Even though the iPad has influenced the design of the two most recent versions of Apple’s Macintosh operating system, Apple continues to keep the product lines separate. There are iPads and there are Macs, and for the foreseeable future they will run different operating systems.
If Apple does come out with a new tablet, it will likely come out at about the same time that Microsoft launches Windows 8 — the new operating system that supports tablets and touch screen PCs as well as traditional PCs and laptops.
Microsoft is taking a very different approach than Apple. Rather than two separate operating systems for mobile devices and personal computers, Windows 8 works with both form factors. There are two versions of Windows 8 — RT for machines with less powerful ARM processors and another that runs on PCs with more traditional Intel (INTC) or AMD processors. Both will support what Microsoft was calling the Metro interface (they dropped that name) with a touch interface to launch tablet-like apps, but the non-RT version will also work with traditional “desktop apps.”
Whether they run RT or the more robust version of Windows 8, many of the new Windows tablets will have optional keyboards. Microsoft has already announced its Surface tablet with an optional cover that adds a keyboard. At the IFA tech show in Berlin last week, Samsung unveiled its Ativ Smart PC and Smart PC Pro which are PCs with detachable keyboards, so they can also serve as tablets. The Pro version is a full-fledged PC with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4 gigabytes of memory, a 256 GB solid state drive and USB and HDMI ports. Other PC makers are also releasing tablets with keyboards.
We’re also seeing some interesting new Android devices, including Lenovo’s Ideatab S2110A that I saw at IFA. It’s a 10-inch tablet with an optional doc that adds a keyboards and enough battery power to run the device for 20 hours.