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Apple unwraps iPad mini

By , ITWeb
South Africa , 24 Oct 2012

Apple unwraps iPad mini

Apple plans to start selling an 8-inch version of the iPad on Friday in selected markets to compete with Amazon's Kindle and other smaller tablets. But the device is set for a higher-than-expected price tag of $329 that Wall Street fears could curb demand.

The 7.9 inch "iPad mini" marks the iPhone-maker's first foray into the smaller-tablet segment.

Apple hopes to beat back incursions onto its home turf of consumer electronics hardware, while safeguarding its lead in a larger tablet space - one that even deep-pocketed rivals like Samsung Electronics have found tough to penetrate.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook and marketing chief Phil Schiller took the wraps off the new tablet, which essentially has most of the functions and features of the full-size iPad but in a smaller package.

Priced at $329 for a Wi-Fi only model, the iPad mini is a little costlier than some predicted, but some analysts see that as a bid to retain premium pricing levels. Others fear the gadget will lure buyers away from Apple's $499 flagship 10-inch iPad, while proving ineffective in combating the threat of Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7, both of which are sold at or near cost.

"Apple has always been a premium hardware manufacturer. It's basically a hardware company and they don't have Google advertising or Amazon's online store to fall back on," said Destination Wealth Management, chief executive officer, Michael Yoshikami.

"But people are happy to pay a premium because it's quality hardware, and the ecosystem (of content and apps) cannot be underestimated."

JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna said, however, "It's coming in the range that most were grumbling about and that, quite frankly, we're a little bit concerned about."

"It's a little confusing at this juncture to try and figure out how it fits into the line-up. Is it going to cannibalise the more expensive iPad?" he said.

"It is worth noting that there are zero-margin products out there competing with them now ... and that is presenting some challenges to Apple."

Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester who attended the event, said he was impressed with the lightness of the iPad mini, which he got a chance to play with following the event.

"Apple went for the high end of what people have been thinking of," Gillett said, adding that Amazon and Google may have to adjust their product line-ups to compete with the iPad mini.

The focus on growing competition was evident as Schiller - at the iPad mini's launch event, held in San Jose's California Theatre - compared the iPad mini with Google's popular 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, citing feature by feature why the new Apple device was superior. It is unusual for Apple to single out a specific competitor in its product launches.

"Theirs is made of plastic," Schiller said, referring to the Android tablet. "The entire Android product is thicker and heavier."

Schiller later defended Apple's pricing of the iPad mini, telling reporters he expects consumers to recognise quality and be willing to pay for it.

Faster and slimmer

In a surprise move, Apple also announced a fourth-generation full-sized iPad just six months after unveiling a third generation device to much fanfare. The latest tablet, which again sells for $499, is faster and slimmer and comes just days before Microsoft is due to show off its own "Surface" tablet.

Apple also unveiled thinner MacBook Pro laptops, including a 13-inch Retina display.

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