Apple Inc plans to debut a smaller, cheaper iPad by year-end, two people with knowledge of the plans said, to help maintain dominance of the tablet market as Google Inc and Microsoft Corp prepare competing handheld devices.
The new model will have a screen that is 7 to 8 inches diagonally, smaller than the current 9.7-inch version, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple has not made its plans public.
The product, which Apple may announce by October, won’t have the high-definition screen featured on the iPad that was released in March, one of the people said.
A smaller, less expensive iPad could undercut the ambitions of Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com Inc to gain traction in the advancing tablet market, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc.
The new device will probably have a price closer to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, both of which have 7-inch screens and cost US$199.
“It would be the competitors’ worst nightmare,” Wu said in an interview. “The ball is in Apple’s court.”
Since the iPad went on sale in April 2010, Apple has dominated the tablet market, which is predicted by DisplaySearch to reach US$66.4 billion this year. Apple has 61 percent of the market, according to Gartner Inc.
Apple’s rivals are eager to gain a toehold. Google said on Wednesday last week that it would sell a tablet-style device called the Nexus 7.
Earlier in the month, Microsoft announced a tablet called Surface that will have a similar screen size as the current iPad. Amazon’s Kindle Fire was released last year.
The new entrants’ best chance of success has been to focus on markets where Apple had no toehold, said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Ovum Ltd.
The Surface will come in two models that are most likely to appeal to buyers who want to continue using Microsoft’s Windows software, Dawson said.
While Microsoft has not disclosed pricing or timing for either, the higher-end version will probably be pricier than the iPad and targeted more at Ultrabook users, he said. The latest iPad ranges in price from US$499 to US$829.
Google’s Nexus 7 could stack up well against Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which went on sale in November. The Nexus 7, manufactured by Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), has a faster processor and better battery life than the Kindle Fire, as well as a front-facing camera.
Apple’s plans to release a smaller sized iPad were reported previously in blogs, including DigiTimes.