Apple mastered the role of mass market volume and the role of the content ecosystem when it took iPod down market with the iPod Mini in 2004 and iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano in 2005, even as it steadily improved the iPod itself. Apple thus staved off competition from competitors like Creative, iRiver, Samsung, and Sony by offering a player at every price point. The result is a persistent domination of the MP3 player market and its attendant ecosystem: app store, customer base, and content portfolio. In other words, iPod Mini, iPod Nano, and iPod Shuffle made the Apple ecosystem powerful and momentous.

But while Apple created the modern tablet market, its dominance was not assured with a single form factor. Despite that the App Store has 275,000 iPad-specific apps. Despite the fact that already 200 million people are running Apple's latest iOS6 operating system. Despite the fact that Apple has paid $6.5 billion to developers building iOS apps so far. (These numbers all crush the Android and Windows mobile ecosystems.)

Despite all that, our Forrsights Workforce data shows that Apple's share of tablets in the workforce shrank from 67% in 2011 to 53% in Q2 2012. Samsung and Kindle Fire, took the bulk of that shift: Samsung has 13% of the global workforce tablet installed base in Q2 2012 and Kindle Fire has 5%. Both brands rely on small form factor tablets.

Apple needed to respond to this consumer and employee demand for smaller tablets. It's no surprise, then, that Apple took a page from its own iPod playbook and shipped the 4th generation of its seminal iPad tablet and kept the cheaper 10" iPad2 while at the same time introducing the iPad mini, a 7.9" diagonal screen with a $329 base price. The refreshed iPad and new iPad mini will be good for businesses and for CIOs. Here's why:

  • iPad is becoming the defacto standard for CIO-sponsored employee mobility. Apple has sold 100 million iPads in 2 1/2 years. So most executives and information workers either have one or know how it works. That makes iPad an easy choice for CIOs that want to provide a familiar experience. And while our CIO clients wait hopefully for a great Win RT tablet, today iPad is the best option. 
  • iPad mini runs 275,000 iPad apps, including yours, as is. Things that look great and run great on an iPad2 will look and run great on an iPad mini. Developers have to do zero extra work (according to Apple). The resolution is the same and the processor is more powerful than the iPad2. So as CIO, if you've designed your mobile site or built the app for iPad2, then it will work as is.
  • Both new iPads have LTE support, so the carrier support options will likely be the same for the iPad (4th generation) and iPad mini as they are for iPhone 5: AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in the US, for example. For employees, that means a fast network for content delivery. And for CIOs, it means a simpler provisioning and support model because carriers will support your key iOS devices.
  • Employees and firms have more choice in tablet power, price, and presence. Not everybody needs a 10" screen.. Some people prefer thin. Some prefer thick. Executives don't typically need a big device. Business consultants and sales people that want to never carry a laptop prefer notebook-sized big And field service or physicians or casual users could benefit from coat-sized small. Apple will sell iPad mini starting at $329, iPad 2 starting at $399, and iPad (4th generation) at $499. More for LTE and more memory, of course. The future of devices is scenario-specific — the right device for the primary application. And if that means carrying two tablets, so be it.
  • iPad mini is cheaper. That will drive demand for tablets in the workforce and of course among customers and partners. When the device cost is right around the cost of a coffee a day for a year, it's affordable to most working people. For CIOs, that means mobile engagement will get another kick in the pants this holiday season as business sponsors build even more mobile apps. And CIOs should expect the pace of BYO tablets to pick up. Already 7% of global information workers pay for their own tablet for work — over half of the total adopted.

What are your thoughts? Will iPad mini and iPad 4th generation stave off competition from Win RT and Samsung and Amazon and others in the enterprise? (I say, yes.)