Apple is believed to be targeting a third quarter launch for an iPad with a smaller display, to more directly challenge Amazon and Barnes & Noble's e-readers.
Apple will soon announce the iPad 3 at an event to be held in San Francisco on March 7. The new tablet from Apple is expected to have a better screen, a faster processor, LTE 4G, a bigger battery, and possibly even Siri, Apple's iOS-based digital assistant.
Reports have resurfaced recently that suggest Apple is already preparing to manufacture a smaller tablet, which would be available later this year.
DigiTimes on Thursday reported that Apple's "iPad Mini" (as it is being referred to) is already being manufactured by its partners in Asia. Samples are being sent to Apple for a final look-see, with full production scheduled to start in the third quarter, according to the report. DigiTimes says the iPad Mini will have a 7.85-inch display, so that it might better compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook. Pricing will be a key factor for the success of any such device, and the price of the iPad Mini is reported to fall between $249 and $299 (similar to an iPod Touch.)
Based on reports of holiday sales, devices such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook were popular gift items this past gift-giving season. One of the big attractions to these media-focused devices is their lower-than-the-iPad price points. The base Kindle sells for as little as $79 and the Kindle Fire goes for $199. The least expensive iPad starts at a more daunting $499.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said earlier this year that inexpensive tablets--such as the Barnes & Noble Nook or the Amazon Kindle Fire--are not a threat to the iPad.
"I think people really want to do multiple things with their tablets," said Cook. "We don't really see these limited function tablets and e-readers being in same category. In terms of competitiveness, the ecosystem for iPad is in a class by itself."
Cook thinks the limited capabilities of the low-cost tablets will keep demand for the iPad high. In his opinion, the low-cost tablets "will sell a fair number of units, but I don't think that people that want an iPad will settle for limited function. We're just going to continue to innovate like crazy in this area. And we think we can continue to compete with anyone that is currently shipping tablets, or that might enter in the future," Cook said.
Apparently, however, Apple has its own low-cost (but still powerful) tablet in the works just in case the iPad 3 isn't the smash hit most people assume it will be.
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