More rumors surrounding Apple’s unofficially named “iPad Mini,” a smaller version of its popular tablet, continue to surface, this time from a report in The Wall Street Journal, which quoted unnamed component suppliers in Asia as saying they have received orders from Apple to build more than 10 million of the smaller tablets in the fourth quarter. The sources said that was approximately double the number of orders they received to build Amazon’s rival tablet, the Kindle Fire, in the same period.
While rumors and speculation concerning a smaller iPad have been floating around the Web for month, more reports are starting to trickle in as the anticipated launch event, thought to be held sometime in mid-October, nears. A report in The Journal last week, also citing unnamed sources, said Apple component suppliers had already begun production on the smaller iPad, which may have a screen size of 7.85 inches and a lower-resolution display than the 9.7-inch high-definition Retina display found on the full-size iPad.
“Apple did not skimp on the aesthetics of the much-anticipated ‘iPad Mini,’” Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White wrote in an investor research note picked up by the blog AllThingsD. “In fact, we believe the ‘iPad Mini’ could outshine the new iPad in terms of how the device feels in a consumer’s hands. The new ‘iPad Mini’ is more challenging to produce than prior iPad iterations. We believe supply will initially be constrained.”
Apple’s latest gadget will face competition from a slew of low-priced competing devices from Amazon, Google and others, which could prompt Apple to offer consumers a device with a more competitive price than the full-size iPad, which currently starts at $499. In comparison, Amazon’s recently released 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets start at $159, and Google’s Nexus 7 tablet starts at $199. Apple may not have to price the iPad Mini that low, however. According to the results of a survey earlier this year from Pricegrabber, 52 percent of respondents would consider purchasing an iPad Mini for approximately $250 to $300.
While competition in the tablet is increasing, the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report released earlier this month, projected ultra-slim PC shipments, driven by tablets, would grow from 3.4 million in 2011 to 65 million by 2015 to represent a quarter of the mobile PC market. While demand for notebooks is slowing, tablet computers are picking up the slack as consumers turn to devices that allow them to easily access content on the go, and the report noted tablets are leading this technology revolution and are expected to surpass sales of notebook shipments by 2016.
A recent IDC report found Apple shipped 17 million iPads during the second quarter of 2012, up from 11.8 million units in the prior quarter. The iPad currently represents 68 percent of the worldwide tablet market.