Apple is expected to announce the iPad mini at their event scheduled for next Tuesday, Oct. 23, and today TechCrunch reported that a source close to Apple's supply chain has said that the device will go on sale on Nov. 2. And price? The heavy betting seems to be on either $299 or $349. The rationale is that Apple already has a product -- the iPod touch -- at the $199 price point. Plus, Apple always builds in substantial profit margins, so it's unlikely they'd go as low as $199. Also, given the extreme popularity of the iPad, most market analysts feel that Apple could be competitive selling their low-end model at a price that's above the $199 tablets from Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon recently acknowledged that they sell their tablets at cost, and that they make their money on media and apps. That's not the Apple way.
An article today on AppleInsider reports the views of a market analyst that the iPad mini will be the "competition's worst nightmare." Apple's iPad has already dominated the high end of the market, and now that competitors have built an interest in lower-cost tablets, Apple will swoop in and take a big chunk of that market, too. And a fun article on TechPinions characterizes the forthcoming battle between Apple's iPad, Google's Nexus tablet, and Microsoft's Surface tablet as a Clint Eastwood western.
No doubt the competition will be fierce. There are some attrative options out there. Google's Nexus 7 tablet has been selling well. And Amazon now has a history of making tablets -- and just keeps improving their line. Their model that offers 4G cellular data connectivity for $50 per year way undercuts the competition. Barnes & Noble's recently announced Nook tablets are coming in at an amazing price point. And Microsoft is now selling its Surface tablet starting at $499 for 32 GB. Best Buy has also announced that they'll be selling a tablet.
In the midst of this competition, one analyst has predicted that Apple will phase out its iPad 2, which it's still selling for $399, in order to keep their product line simple.
I think the iPad mini is defintely going to be popular. One of the main appeals of the smaller tablets is portability. If the iPad mini adopts the same in-cell technology of the new iPhone and iPod touch, and given that it will use the new Lightning connector, this could be one of the thinnest and lightest tablets. Yet it will have a larger screen, at 7.85 inches, than the other tablets in the 7-inch range. That may not sound like much, but it's significant. The screen area of a 7-inch tablet is half that of the current iPad, but the iPad mini's screen area is two-thirds that of the current iPad.
Microsoft's Surface tablet is already being panned. John Dvorak thinks that at $499 it's too expensive and will do poorly against the iPad. He feels that to compete with Apple's iPad, it would need to be priced much lower. Apple simply has too much mind share, and competing products need to come in at a lower price in order to get the consumer's attention.