iPad Mini Increasingly Likely, as Industry Runs Ahead

Apple has yet to confirm it's working on a smaller iPad—as The New York Times is the latest to report. But the tablet industry clearly has no doubts.

Apple's iPad inspired what is now an industry of touch-based tablet devices. With the company now readying a smaller iPad, that industry has run out ahead, introducing several devices clearly intended to compete against a smaller iPad€”and secure some market share before it arrives.

Breaking tradition, Microsoft introduced its own tablet, the Surface, in June, and on July 13, Google began selling its own tablet, created with Asus, the 7-inch Nexus 7.

While Apple has yet to confirm the existence of a smaller tablet€”and if history is any indication, it won't until CEO Tim Cook stands on a stage with one in hand€”analysts and media outlets have been pointing to such a device, expected to be called the iPad Mini, since at least February.

The New York Times, in a July 15 article, barely bothered to refer to the device as something speculative.

"The company is developing a new tablet with a 7.85-inch screen that is likely to sell for significantly less than the latest $499 iPad, with its 9.7-inch display, according to several people with knowledge of the project who declined to be named discussing confidential plans," The Times reported. "The product is expected to be announced this year."

The report went on to say that a smaller-screen iPad is a natural fit for Apple, which has experimented with the touch-based interface on screens as petite as those on its iPod.

Apple controlled a nearly 63 percent share of the tablet market during the first quarter of this year, according to the NPD Group, and by many accounts is expected to hold on to at least a 50 percent of the market through 2016, as competitors nip away at that tantalizing chunk.

While in the tablet market Apple has held on to the lion's share of what it helped create, the smartphone space€”which the 2007 introduction of the iPhone breathed new life into€”is another story. Apple's strategy of one-new-phone-each-year has left it with piles of money and an intensely loyal fan base, but not the majority share of the market.

"[Google's] Android continues to lead the smartphone market in the U.S., with a majority of smartphone owners (51.8 percent) using an Android OS handset," Nielsen reported July 12, citing new research. The company added that less that 54.9 percent of Americans now use smartphones€”leaving plenty of folks for the various phone makers to still woo.

Some of that wooing is also done with Apple's iPad€”and soon, no doubt, its iPad mini. NPD has found it to have a considerable "halo effect"€”the process of users extending their pleasure with one product onto the larger brand. In April, the firm reported that 25 percent of consumers said the iPad was their first Apple product.

€œiPad sales are growing much faster than any other Apple product has this soon after launch,€ Ben Arnold, NPD director of industry analysis, wrote in the report. €œIn fact, one-in-five Apple owner households has one€”nearly equivalent to the number that own an Apple computer. This demonstrates the appeal of both the new form factor and Apple€™s app ecosystem.€

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