The new iPad was just announced last week, and already the rumor mill has moved on. But not, as you might expect, to the new new iPad (blame Apple for losing version numbers), but to the oft-rumored 7.85-inch iPad Mini.
Today’s rumor says that the iPad Mini will come with a slim bezel display, which will make it look smaller than it actually is (perhaps in order to be comparable on size with smaller, 7″ offerings from competitors). The display will probably not be marketed as Retina, which makes sense for a lower-cost tablet. The iPad Mini may come with the same 1024×768 resolution that’s in the iPad 2, I’d venture a guess.
This rumor, which comes from ‘sources in the upstream supply chain’ quoted by DigiTimes, also has it that the iPad Mini is made to compete with the Amazon Kindle Fire and Samsung’s soon to be announced devices. I’d also add the Barnes & Noble Nook tablet and the rumored Google Nexus tablet to the list of what Apple probably sees as the main ‘threats’ to the iPad at this point.
And how better to make those threats irrelevant than release a smaller and cheaper iPad to take them on both on size as well as on price?
The iPad Mini will reportedly cost $249 or $299. That’s still going to be up to $100 more expensive than the Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet, however it won’t matter. Because of the power of Apple’s brand, I bet most people will go for the small iPad even if it does require shelling out a bit more cash. As for the Nexus tablet, it may be out at $249. In case Apple prices the iPad Mini at the same level (though I doubt it), it will be very hard for Google to make a compelling case for its tablet, especially since Android is severely lacking dedicated tablet apps (whereas iOS already has more than 200,000).
I still don’t think that Apple needs an iPad Mini this year. Maybe it will next year (let’s say it gets unveiled together with the next new iPad in spring). But this year, the $399 iPad 2 will do a lot to take people away from the Kindle Fire and Nook tablet and possibly even the Nexus tablet. Practically, the only people left unconvinced by Apple will be those who really can’t afford paying $399 for a tablet and those who think the existing iPads are simply too big.
So yes, Apple may launch a new tablet just for those groups of people (though no one knows how large they are), but my point is that it doesn’t need to.
Still, if it does, then it will be almost impossible for any competitor to even dream of catching up to the iPad(s) in terms of market share at least in the next year or so. With a $299 entry-level iPad Mini, a $399 iPad 2, and $499 new iPad, Apple would have a lot of price points covered. And I think that most of the people who’d buy a tablet in the first place are going to afford one of those prices.