iPad Mini Will Be a Holiday Winner as Google Gains Ground

The Apple iPad will be a holiday hit and help to drive tablet sales for Apple, says a new report. But it won't prevent Apple from losing market share, particularly to Google partner Asus.

Apple's iPad Mini continues to receive a vote of confidence from analysts, who expect the tablet to be a holiday best seller. While the pricing of Apple's iPads, which traditionally begins at $499, has set them apart from $199 competitors, the smaller Mini, with its $329 price tag, enables Apple to compete for more budget-conscious consumers.

Analyst Michael Walkley, with investment firm Canaccord Genuity, continues to generously refer to the iPad Mini, not as $130 more than its competitors but discounted $170 from its peers.

"With the impressive refresh of the fourth-generation Retina iPad and launch of the iPad Mini earlier this week, we anticipate very strong holiday quarter iPad sales," Walkley wrote in an Oct. 28 research note. "In fact, with Apple's decision to price the iPad Mini at a $170 discount to similar fourth-generation iPad SKUs and competitively priced versus lower priced competing products from Google and other Android OEMs, we anticipate strong sales of the iPad Mini, especially as gifts during the holiday quarter."

Canaccord expects Apple to sell 9.25 million iPad Mini devices during the December quarter, 40 million Minis in fiscal year 2013, and 92.5 million total iPads in fiscal year 2013, up 59 percent from fiscal 2012.

"While we believe these strong sales [of the Mini] will come largely at the expense of Apple's competition, we concede iPad Mini will likely cannibalize iPad and iPod Touch sales," Walkley wrote, adding that the firm now expects Apple to sell 14.6 million iPads (the Mini excluded) during the December quarter.

During the 2012 third quarter, Apple shipped 14 million iPads, for a 61.5 percent share of the global tablet market. Amazon followed, with sales of 2.1 million units for a 9.3 percent share, and Samsung came in third, with shipments of 1.5 million units and a 6.6 percent share.

Canaccord expects "modest" sales from Apple competitors, but for Apple shares to nonetheless decline during the fourth quarter, due to competition from Windows-based devices like the Microsoft Surface, and Android-running tablets, such as the Nexus and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD tablets.

A day after the Canaccord report, Google increased its likelihood of nibbling away at Apple's shares. In a blog post—after its efforts to host an Oct. 29 party on a New York City pier were undone by Hurricane Sandy—it introduced three new Nexus tablets: an LG-made Nexus 4 with a 4.7-inch display; a new Nexus 7, with more storage and Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) connectivity, no doubt from Asus, as the one before it; and a Samsung-made Nexus 10, with a 10.05-inch display.

All three run Android 4.2, a new flavor of Jelly Bean that includes the latest version of Google Now—an app that features "Cards" showing information it intuits the user to need, such as flight information or sports scores.

All three will arrive Nov. 13 and are priced nearer to the iPad Mini than the original $199 Nexus 7. The Nexus 4 will start at $299 (or $199 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile), the new Nexus 7 at $299 and the Nexus 10 at $399.

During the fourth quarter, Canaccord expects Apple's shipments to rise from 14 million to 23.8 million, but its market share to fall from 61.5 percent to 55.5, percent, as Asus' projected share rises from 7.9 percent to 16.3 percent, with expected sales of 7 million units, up from 1.8 million during the third quarter.