Jobs dismissed iPad mini as only good for surfing on the loo

Steve Jobs reportedly said the 7-inch prototype iPad was good for nothing "besides surfing the web in the bathroom".

Steve Jobs hated the prototype 7-inch iPad so much he said it was good for nothing "besides surfing the web in the bathroom", according to an anonymous former Apple employee who worked on the iPad mini project.

Speaking to the New York Times, the engineer revealed how Jobs dismissed early versions of the iPad several years ago. While his feelings on Android tablets are no secret -- he famously said you'd have to sandpaper your fingers down to use them -- the topic has come up again because of persistent rumours that Apple is working on an iPad mini.

So if the rumours are true, why is Apple turning its back on its founder's edict? It's possible it feels better able to deliver a good experience on a smaller screen with retina display technology. Much more likely however, is that it's keenly aware of the popularity of the likes of Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 -- both small, and crucially cheap.

The Fire and the Nexus 7 both run on Android and in the case of the latter, it sells so cheaply it loses Google money to manufacture and sell it. As a loss leader, its purpose is to convert people into enthusiastic Android fans and Google Play users, downloading apps, books, movies and music via Google's store rather than anyone else's. Ditto the Fire and Amazon's range of services.

iTunes doesn't currently make a huge percentage of Apple's profit -- it has such vast margins on its hardware -- but it needs more and more people to buy into its so-called ecosystem all the time. If you've bought apps for a specific system, you're much more likely to stay with that system when the time comes to upgrade your phone or tablet. Expect the iPad mini to be significantly cheaper than its predecessor.

It's not just Apple's approach to tablets that's changing either. Jobs didn't want developers to have to code for different sized screens, but repeated leaks show the iPhone 5 will have a bigger screen than the 3.5 inches it's had since the year dot.

While Apple might spin that as a move to a 16:9 ratio to better display films, and have room for another row of apps, it's pretty obviously following the trend of Android phones, which have long since passed 4 inches as a standard size. This year's most popular high-end droids, the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3, are both closer to 5 inches across.

Is Apple spooked by its competitors? Is it a bad move to abandon its one size fits all policy? Or are you slavering for a smaller iPad and a bigger iPhone? Talk size down in the comments, or on our seismic Facebook page -- and for all the latest iPad mini rumours, check out Andrew and Luke's video below.

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