Apple unwraps mini-iPad to take on Amazon, Google

Tue Oct 23, 2012 5:30pm EDT
 
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By Poornima Gupta and Noel Randewich

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Apple Inc will begin to sell an 8-inch version of the iPad on Friday to compete with smaller tablets including Amazon.com Inc's Kindle, but set 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 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 the $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 CEO 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."

The focus on growing competition was evident as Schiller -- at a 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."   Continued...

 
The new iPad mini is projected on a screen during an Apple event in San Jose, California October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith