With the $200 Google Nexus 7 tablet now official, and rumors heating up regarding an Amazon Kindle 2, eyes are on Apple to see if the iPad maker will enter the low-priced tablet market.
Rumors regarding the so-called “iPad Mini”, a smaller and cheaper version of the 9.7-inch Apple iPad, have been circulating since the original debuted in April 2010, even though Steve Jobs once dismissed the smaller tablet form factor as “DOA.”
The rumor mill now seems to be spinning a bit faster, perhaps in part because of the $200 quad-core Google Jelly Bean tablet and Apple’s reluctance to cede the market space. According to unnamed sources and prognostications on the part of Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal, Apple is covertly gearing up for production on a shrunk down version of the iPad for release toward the end of 2012.
Word broke earlier this week, leaked by folks claiming to work for Apple’s component suppliers in Asia. Although there has been no official comment from Apple on the matter, here are the most up to date details as we know them:
- The appropriately nicknamed “iPad Mini” will be significantly smaller, with a screen less than 8 inches in size. 7.85 inches to be exact, if rumor has it right.
- Apple appears to be working on the screen technology with LG Display Co. in South Korea and AUG Optronics Co. in Taiwan, however there’s been indication that the new smaller model won’t offer the same Retina display that made its tablet debut as an integral selling point of the iPad 3. This is probably a cost-cutting measure.
- Production is scheduled to go full tilt in September, with an expected “official” announcement by Apple in October. It’s worth noting that many expect Apple to announce the iPhone 5 around the same time.
- Apple is aiming to release the iPad Mini just in time for the 2012 Holiday shopping season, with a sticker price likely in the neighborhood of $249 – $299.
What this means for Apple’s direct competitors, particularly Google and Amazon, is that the Cupertino-based behemoth has taken obvious notice of their latest forays into the tablet universe and may decide to answer back in grand fashion: by offering a competitively priced and conveniently sized alternative in the iPad Mini.
And who knows? With a few skillfully dropped rumors and “unofficial statements”, it may even succeed at stealing a bit of Google’s thunder. However, given the buzz the Nexus 7 tablet has generated (expect a full review from TabletPCReview in the coming weeks), that may not be so easy if any competition is looking to undercut it with price. The new iPad starts at $499, while the iPad 2 is still available for $399, both 16GB and Wi-Fi only.