Is the iPad mini Right-priced for Education?

There was considerable speculation, indeed consternation, that Apple would call its new 7.x-inch tablet the iPad mini. And that’s what Apple boldly did. On top of that, the company aggressively positioned it as a premium 7-inch tablet and avoided a product line conflict with the iPod touch. Finally, does this new iPad have the right price for the K-12 education market? Let’s think about all that.


First, I will have to admit that I lost an inside bet on the naming. Previously, I wrote that the Apple 7.9-inch tablet would be the “iPad 7” for various good reasons, primarily as a technical name that characterizes its market position. I think it’s amazing and instructive that Apple went with the common notion, one that had become entrenched over many months, and frankly seems a bit weak.

Image Credit: Apple

Also, it shows both a willingness to go with the consensus thinking, developed on the Web, and also a certain self-confidence that Apple’s brand is so strong that names open to poking fun can nevertheless become immune thanks to the enthusiasm for the product. After all, poking fun at some kinds of names can only last so long. The dignity and strength of Apple and monstrous sales overwhelm the silliness in the long run.

Product Line Positioning

Another thing that we wondered about was the positioning of the iPad mini in the Apple product line. There was the suggestion, in Apple’s announcement of the Oct 23 event that there would be an educational component. That lent credence to the belief that Apple might trade off specs against the iPod touch in such a way that the iPad mini could be priced nicely, in the $249 range, for education. After all, bigger doesn't have to mean more expensive -- if going after education is an imperative.

The fact that the iPod touch costs slightly more would be explained by the fact that it has a Retina display and that one pays the price for miniaturization.

Apple elected not to go that route, as shown in this table.

  iPod touch iPad mini
Screen Size 4.0 in. 7.9 in.
Display type IPS, Retina, 326 ppi IPS, 163 ppi
Display res. 1136 x 640 1024 x 768
Cameras FaceTime &
FaceTime & iSight
Sensors Gyro,
ambient light
Weight 3.1 oz (88 g) 10.9 oz (312 g)
Thickness 0.24 in (6.1 mm) 0.28 in (7.2 mm)
Price (32 GB)* US$299 US$429

(*There is no 16 GB model of the iPod touch 5G, so I used 32 GB models to put the pricing on common ground. Cast that way, the iPad pricing is illuminating.)

The price that Apple pays for having the iPad mini placed clearly between the iPod touch line and the iPad 4th generation reveals a lot about Apple’s confidence that a premium 7.9-inch tablet will sell like hotcakes, can maintain the desired profit margin, and will still appeal to the education market. Scale, capabilities and pricing remain coherent. No drive to the bottom is contemplated.

It’s that last part that intrigues me, however. I know that many, many families and schools will be hard-pressed to digest even the 16 GB Wi-Fi model at $329 in K-12 --  educational discounts notwithstanding. As we know, Mr. Cook likes to brag about how well the iPads are doing in schools, but two factors remain missing: a really affordable price and strong corporate initiatives in the K-12 marketplace. Is Apple missing an opportunity?

I suppose one way to look at it is that the overwhelming acceptance of the iPad mini in other markets, and associated sales volumes, will pay off in education in the long run. Plus, we have a long way to go before tablets are routine in most classrooms, whatever the funding source, parents or schools.

I think the recognition of that led to Apple’s pricing, and so what interests me is the dichotomy between the overt enthusiasm for education in contrast to the market and product line realities that drove the pricing Apple selected. These choices are delicate indeed.