Apple Inc’s pencil-thin, smaller iPad will cost much more than its competitors, signaling the company is not going to get into a mini-tablet price war.
The company debuted the iPad Mini on Tuesday, with a screen two-thirds smaller than the full model, and half the weight. Customers can begin ordering the new model tomorrow. In a surprise, Apple also revamped its flagship, full-sized iPad just six months after the launch of the latest model.
Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs once ridiculed a small tablet from a competitor as a “tweener” that was too big and too small to compete with either smartphones or tablets. Now Apple’s own Mini enters a growing small-tablet market dominated by Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle Fire.
Apple is charging US$329 and up for the Mini — a price that fits into the Apple product lineup between the latest iPod Touch (US$299) and the iPad 2 (US$399). Company watchers had been expecting Apple to price the iPad Mini at US$250 to US$300 to compete with the Kindle Fire, which starts at US$159. Barnes & Noble Inc’s Nook HD and Google Inc’s Nexus 7 both start at US$199.
“Apple had an opportunity to step on the throat of Amazon and and Google yet decided to rely on its brand and focus on margin,” said Bill Kreher, an analyst with brokerage Edward Jones.
Apple has sold more than 100 million iPads since April 2010. Analysts expect Apple to sell 5 million to 10 million iPad minis before the year is out.
Apple shares fell US$20.67, or 3.3 percent, to US$613.36 when the price was announced. Shares of Barnes & Noble Inc jumped US$0.88, or 6.1 percent, to US$15.32. Shares of Amazon.com Inc rose US$0.53, or 0.2 percent, to US$234.31.
Apple starts taking orders for the new model tomorrow, marketing chief Phil Schiller said in San Jose and Wi-Fi-only models a week later. Later, the company will add models capable of accessing “LTE” wireless data networks.
When pre-orders start tomorrow, the iPad Mini will be competing for the attention of gadget shoppers with the release of Windows 8, Microsoft’s new operating system.
The screen of the iPad Mini is 7.9 inches on the diagonal, making it larger than the 7-inch screens of the competitors. It also sports two cameras, on the front and on the back, which the competitors don’t.
The iPad mini is as thin as a pencil and weighs 0.31kg, half as much as the full-size iPad with its 9.7-inch screen, Schiller said.
The screen resolution is 1,024 by 768 pixels, the same as the iPad 2 and a quarter of the resolution of the flagship iPad, which starts at US$499.
The new model has better apps and is easier to use than competitors like Google’s Nexus, said Avi Greengart, a consumer electronics analyst with Current Analysis.
“This really is not in the same category as some of the other 7-inch tablets,” he said. “And that’s before you consider that it has a premium design — it’s made of metal that’s extremely lightweight.”
Cook said more than 275,000 applications were now available for the iPad in Apple’s App Store and that customers have downloaded a total of more than 35 billion apps.
Apple also said it’s upgrading its full-size iPad, doubling the speed of the processor. Previously, the company has updated the iPad once a year.
The fourth-generation iPad will have a better camera and work on more “Long-Term Evolution” wireless data networks around the world.
Apple is also replacing the 30-pin dock connector with the new, smaller “Lightning” connector introduced with the iPhone 5 a month ago.
Apple also introduced a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop with a “Retina” display sporting four times the resolution of the older model.