Apple unwraps mini-iPad to take on Amazon, Google

Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:22pm 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 Amazon.com Inc's Kindle and other smaller tablets, but it 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 - 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 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."

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 cannibalize the more expensive iPad?" he said.   Continued...

 
Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller introduces the new iPad mini during an Apple event in San Jose, California October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith