Apple Ready to Answer iPad Mini Speculation

UPDATED: For the first time in its history, Apple is responding to market pressures from its competitors. In the past it has defined new products with new form factors and waited for the market to follow; in this instance Apple is following the market trend toward a smaller, cheaper tablet.

So Apple is set to launch its iPad Mini Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. Pacific time at the old California Theatre in San Jose, Calif., a place rarely used for IT events. Seems a bit incongruent for a new IT device to be introduced to the world, but it's hard to fault Apple on anything about marketing.

With this event, the company will become the second IT device maker to have a S-M-L connected device lineup in the market: small (iPhone), medium (iPad Mini), and large (iPad full size). Samsung was the first in 2011 with its Galaxy brand.

More significantly, Apple is responding to market pressures from its competitors for the first time. In the past, noted Ovum principal analyst Adam Leach, "it has defined new products with new form factors and waited for the market to follow, in this instance Apple is following the market trend towards smaller cheaper tablet form-factors.

"This reflects a fundamental change in the way Apple operates. Apple is assuming that a lower cost iPad will allow them to sell sufficiently more units to offset the dilution in ASP that a cheaper device is likely to cause," Leach wrote in a media advisory.

How much of a difference does an iPad Mini device measuring 47 picas-by-35-picas (7.85 inches by 5.75 inches) make against the full-sized unit that spans 57.5 picas by 45.5 picas (9.7 inches by 7.5 inches)? Probably not all that much in terms of digital real estate, but it may mean all the difference at the checkout counters and at the App Store.

Apple Looking at $200 Pricing?

Third-generation iPads cost anywhere from $499 to $799. 32GB Gen 2 iPads can be obtained for $399 at Wal-Mart. All the newest tablet competitors (Google Nexus, Amazon Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy, BlackBerry PlayBook -- all 7-inch tablets) cost $199. That's a huge dropoff in price for a tablet.

Expect the iPad Mini to be priced about 50 to 60 percent less than its three Apple predecessors, even though it's really not that much smaller. A logical guess is that we're looking at $199 for the basic Mini.

It would make it even more interesting for the 2012 holiday market if Apple were to mark it down to $179 or $169 and undercut the competition. That could happen, but don't count on it.

Apple needs to compete directly at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target against those Androids and other devices, so it stands to reason that the launch of the Apple iPad Mini will introduce a tablet that costs in the $200 range.

Information has been leaked that the iPad Mini is designed to be easier to use with one hand and will have a display resolution of 1024x768 pixels -- with the display expected to have the same aspect ratio as the bigger iPad. It will run existing all iPad applications. The Mini also is expected to have forward- and rear-facing cameras, like its big brothers.

More Powerful Battery

The battery, never to be taken for granted, will be more powerful (16.7 watt-hours) than older models.

Apple explained at the iPhone 5 launch in September that the new Lightning connector found on the iPhone 5 and latest iPods also will be featured on all forthcoming devices, and that stands to include the iPad mini.

AppleInsider reported that it received a product list that indicates Apple will announce 12 different configurations of iPad models, each of which are expected to be available in two colors, black and white.

The expected in-store date for the iPad mini, the site said, is Nov. 2.

Apple might also announce a new 13-inch MacBook Pro notebook with a Retina display, the site said. We'll all know more Oct. 23.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...