DOES IT HAVE A PLACE IN A LAWYER’S STOCKING?
The iPad mini is both an incredibly new product and a modest revision of what we already know. It's incredibly new in that it brings to the 7" tablet space features unknown in that market. Before October 23, you could not get a small-sized tablet with cellular data regardless of how much you were willing to spend. For connectivity away from home, you had to depend on the wifi of strangers. Furthermore, neither major player in the 7" space, Amazon and Google, could boast of many legal-specific apps designed with a 7" screen in mind. Some existed on Android, but they were scaled-up versions of phone apps, not designed to utilize larger screens. Apple brought these key features to the 7" space.
How is the iPad mini a revision of what we already know? Hardware-wise, the iPad mini has the literal internals of an iPad 2, the highlight product of March 2011, not November 2012. The screen is the same quality that Apple has manufactured since the iPhone 3GS in 2009. The iPad mini is Apple's attempt to bring its technology down-market to attract additional customers who would not consider a product whose previous entry point was $500. It's your opportunity to enter the iPad ecosystem at a lower cost.
I have no doubt that the mini will sell well. In the same way that the iPhone moved down-market from a 2007 minimum launch price of $499 to today's "free with a contract" price, the iPad mini will reach new markets. Making it more affordable, Apple clearly intends for businesses to deploy minis to more people.
The great advantage of the original iPad was to make remote working easy, in a lightweight package. Think of all the things you can do away from the office on an iPad today: email, write and edit documents, surf the web, use myriad legal-specific apps, launch and host GoToMeeting, and even access full desktop Windows or Mac with remote desktop solutions. All of this is possible with built-in wifi or over the cellular network.
Since the iPad mini shares the same internals and screen resolution as the iPad 2, any app you can run on a full-size iPad runs the same, just on a smaller screen for a lower price. The iPad mini is not so much a technological achievement as an economic one. The question legal professionals should ask themselves is, "If I haven't bought an iPad before now, does "smaller" and "cheaper" change the equation for my practice?"
There are two sorts of legal professionals for whom the iPad mini makes sense where an iPad did not. The first is for those who normally carry a notebook computer and saw the original-sized iPad as duplicative. With the iPad mini 4G models, these folks would have immediate access wherever they wanted to work and would not be dependent on a wifi connection to the laptop. The mini's small size means that it adds little bulk and provides 4G hotspot connectivity for up to 5 devices. You get the advantages of the iPad in a smaller, cheaper device.
The second group is comprised of the waiters: the cost-conscious and the technophobes. If you are not sure how much you would use the iPad, trying one is now cheaper. If you were not sure about the iPad's legal applications, but have seen CLEs about iPads advertised, this is the safest time yet to try the iPad. If you thought the iPad was a fad, but have been to conferences where iPads out-numbered laptops among attendees, Apple lowered your barrier to entry.
The iPad mini really is an iPad miniaturized. If you already own an iPad, particularly a Retina display 3rd or 4th generation, the iPad mini doesn't offer you much. In fact, it might offer less in that the 10" iPad could legitimately be considered a laptop replacement, at least for business or day trips, something hard to imagine for the mini. I, for one, will not be buying a mini because I already have an iPad Retina model. But, for those who have avoided the iPad thus far, this is an excellent introductory product that is every bit capable of running the 250,000 iPad-specific apps that already exist - a number unmatched by any other tablet ecosystem at any price or screen size.
Everything about work is becoming more digitized and more portable. If the iPad mini helps you visit clients and take digital notes that seamlessly sync back to your main computer, it makes you more efficient. If the iPad mini means that you work on documents and email during what would otherwise be lost downtime, the mini turns bored time into billable time (with apps that you can buy to track that time). The advantage of the iPad mini over the iPad, and both over a laptop, are portability and battery longevity. You can work in more places for more time in a smaller package. If you haven't joined the app-enabled business world, you are missing out. With the iPad mini, Apple reduced cost as a limiting factor to embrace mobile. The iPad mini lets you join the world's largest mobile app environment at a lower price. You can even get a cellular model without a data contract. It's as riskless as business mobility has ever been.