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iPad Mini Beats Surface to the Launch

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 17, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Apple has announced a special press event for October 23 -- three days before Microsoft's impending launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet.

iPad Mini Beats Surface to the Launch

It's widely believed that Cupertino will launch the much-anticipated iPad mini on that date.

An iPad mini "will definitely be disruptive to the 7-inch media tablet space, an arena that Android vendors have had largely to themselves to date," Rhoda Alexander, a research director at IHS iSuppli, told MacNewsWorld. However, the device is "an expansion of the iPad family rather than direct competition for a specific product."

Or perhaps the need to introduce a smaller iPad might suggest that keeping the lower-priced iPad 2 for the education market is not working out, Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research, remarked.

Possible Specs for the iPad Mini

The mini would likely have the same functionality and components as the iPad 2 in a smaller form factor, ABI's Orr told MacNewsWorld.

"There is a possibility that Apple might go with a wide-format look [for the iPad mini], similar to what they did on the iPods and iPhones," but current intelligence "points to a 7.85-inch, 1,024 x 768 display," IHS's Alexander stated.

A survey of 1,332 people conducted in August by TechBargains found that 78 percent of respondents wanted a USB port on the iPad mini. Further, 77 percent wanted a Retina display, 75 percent a memory card slot, and 74 percent better speakers than the current iPad has.

Marketing the iPad Mini

Whether the iPad mini takes off among consumers remains to be seen.

"We expect [the iPad mini] to be the leading 7-inch tablet in Q4 2012 and for several years beyond," IHS's Alexander predicted. Sales will be strong in Asia, particularly China, "where there is a strong demand for a product of this size."

The iPad needs to address new use cases in order to succeed, ABI's Orr said. These would include additional input methods such as a pen or stylus, multi-sensor gestures, and keyboard input. In-cover keyboards such as those offered in the BlackBerry PlayBook and Microsoft Surface are "an area that Apple may have missed out." However, "we feel that any product Apple introduces will be well-received by the market."

The iPad mini might find the going rough at first, though. Half the respondents to the TechBargains survey had no interest in purchasing the device, 32 percent remained undecided, and only 18 percent planned to buy it. In comparison, 45 percent of the respondents planned to purchase the iPhone 5.

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

Perhaps Apple's problem is that its iPad was much too successful.

"For a company that currently has more than 65 percent of the media tablet market, Apple finds itself in quite a predicament," ABI's Orr commented. "Is it practical to believe that it can grow share, or should it be looking at a strategy to protect that lead as long as possible?"

Apple shouldn't try to compete on price with 7-inch tablets from Google and Amazon, which are offered at $249, Orr said. Further, "the last thing [it] wants is to be so convincing that a new, smaller iPad switches potential new iPad business to a lower price tier."

Taking Cover Behind Redmond?

Despite predictions of the possible low uptake for the iPad mini at first, ABI's Orr dismissed the possibility that Apple might have scheduled its announcement close to Microsoft's Windows 8 launch so that news of a possible flop might be overshadowed.

"We believe the to introduce a new product...before the end-of-year buying season is fully under way," Orr remarked.

Shunning the spotlight just isn't very Apple, IHS's Alexander pointed out. "Apple hasn't demonstrated much interest in hiding to date."

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