With this week’s announcement of the iPad Mini, we thought it appropriate to look into the relative value of using an inflight mini tablet (7 inches, or so) for one’s own personal IFE device. Aside from the size advantage in portability, it has just enough size benefit over the iPhone for reading, game playing, movies, and any other visual oriented task. We predict that these tablets in the respective 7″ size domain will eventually rule the personal IFE device space. Why? Ask yourself, what are the iPad sized tablets disadvantages? Relative portability, viewing quality/resolution, and battery performance. No wonder laptops are getting a run for their money as portable units flaunt dual and quad core processors and 10 hour battery life. Further, the smaller tablet field is just developing and it looks like this market segment is the next big thing. Personal IFE usage could be one reason travelers will respond to them.

From a total tablet perspective, Apple holds 50% of the sales (and dropping), which the iPad Mini is expected to bolster. The first three days of sales appear to prove this growth expectation with 3 million unit sold. While the total tablet market quarterly sales rise is roughly 7%. In the non-Apple ecosphere, the Google Nexus 7 and the Nook/Kindle/Galaxy devices make up the other 50% of sales and they will be growing in numbers because of the smaller size, performance… and price point in some cases.

As noted above, price and performance will wring out sales winners and losers this forthcoming year. While the tablet is mostly a visual experience, audio is not to be forgotten and that is where a good audio accessory is also a necessary add on. The real deal is a good pair of noise canceling headphones with a built-in microphone (headset) if you get telephony on your device. We have reviewed the Bose MIEi2 Mobile headset for a reason, they perform great and they have the phone/tablet audio interface (level/microphone) built into the cord.

No doubt, size, price and performance will drive this market and in the case of IFE, these are similar influences. Access to you personal entertainment is within easy reach. This may be a bit more difficult if your are trying to round-up a 10″ tablet in a protective carrying case. Let’s face it, the iPad is a two handed tool; whereas, a 7″ tablet is potentially a one-hander… almost like your phone. Unlike the larger tablets, it stays in your pocket for the duration of the trip. For you book readers, since text size is expandable, a lighter (smaller) device may aid in one handed reading. You might just have to turn the page a bit more often.

We asked a number of travelers about the future of the 7″ tablet and we got the same responses from almost all of them in the same order: size for portability, screen quality (as a result of reduced size), available “apps”, price and availability were the most common responses. We think the size will be the sought benchmark for travelers. Period. The original 10″ iPad has become the portable laptop for many, while the phone has become the portable personal assistant. The 7″ tablet will become the portable traveling entertainment device. From another perspective, almost all business travelers take a laptop and a phone with them on a business trip. If a laptop and a phone are a given, then why wouldn’t a reduced size and weight tablet be a plus? Not withstanding, the laptop and the mini tablet could be packed together. No doubt, some smart manufacturer will also provide one power source to carry as well!

Another possible traveling advantage of a 7″ tablet has to do with the issue of denied overhead baggage storage. While most tablets are small enough, there is nothing like being able to slide your portable IFE in your suit or jacket pocket instead of fumbling around with repacking your bag on the gangway. While electronic boarding passes (EBP) are a long way from being the default airline ticket, the phone/tablet storage device seems like a no-brainer. With a device that has cell service instead of only Wi-Fi, the phone probably has an edge (no pun intended). However, because of problems in foreign countries, lack of Wi-Fi (or cell) service, and a myriad of technical issues, the advantage of either device may be void.

Here are a number of links to explore the tablet world and decide for yourself:

http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/05/engadgets-tablet-buyers-guide-fall-2012/#continued

http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/05/idc-tablet-shipments-Q3-2012/

http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/05/apple-three-million-ipad-sold-in-three-days/

iPad mini Announced: Here’s Everything You Need To Know | Redmond Pie

Apple Sets New Launch-Weekend Record With iPad Mini – Forbes

Why Apple Really Built the iPad Mini – TheStreet
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This week’s “IFEC BUZZ” quote comes from John Courtright. John is VP-Programs for SIE, a systems integration & structures engineering firm specializing in installation of connectivity systems on commercial, VIP, and Mil/Gov aircraft…among other services. We asked John this week for a quote because he has helped put SIE on the IFE map (Kinda rhymes, doesn’t it?).