Time for ipad fans to see the shrink

It may be small but Ap­ple’s new ipad could have a big im­pact

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

AP­PLE’S small­est, light­est and cheap­est tablet com­puter will not arrive in Aus­tralia un­til Fri­day but the de­vice has al­ready split the mar­ket in two.

One camp of ex­perts pre­dicts it will be the hottest elec­tronic pur­chase this Christ­mas — so hot it could help dou­ble the mar­ket for 7-inch tablets and jeop­ar­dise larger com­put­ing pur­chases.

The other group main­tains Ap­ple did not go far enough to please price-con­scious con­sumers who would have snapped up an iPad Mini un­der the magic $300 mark but may now hes­i­tate.

But both camps agree that Ap­ple will sell plenty of the mod­estly sized tablet ad­di­tion this year, and more small-sized com­pe­ti­tion will be headed to store shelves to com­pete for con­sumer at­ten­tion.

The iPad Mini was un­veiled in San Jose last Wed­nes­day af­ter months of spec­u­la­tion.

The small­est iPad to date fea­tures a body that is 23 per cent thin­ner than the third gen­er­a­tion iPad at just 7.2mm, more than half as light at 308g, and costs $170 less than the new top-of-the-line iPad.

Ap­ple world­wide mar­ket­ing se­nior vice-pres­i­dent Phil Schiller says that de­spite the size re­duc­tion, the tablet is still wor­thy of Ap­ple’s tablet brand.

‘‘ This isn’t just a shrunken down iPad. It’s an en­tirely new iPad,’’ he says. ‘‘ It is a great iPad and the tech­nolo­gies inside are equal to or bet­ter than the iPad 2 in ev­ery way.’’

Those com­po­nents in­clude a dual-core A5 pro­ces­sor, the same 1024x768 res­o­lu­tion as the iPad 2 (though packed on to a smaller screen) and two cam­eras, in­clud­ing a 5-megapixel iSight cam­era on its back.

Sur­pris­ing some who tipped a wi-fi-only tablet, Ap­ple will of­fer 4G ver­sions of the Mini mod­els for an ad­di­tional $140, though these will not be avail­able un­til later in Novem­ber.

But while Tel­syte re­search di­rec­tor Foad Fadaghi says Ap­ple has cre­ated a typ­i­cally stylish prod­uct in the iPad Mini, he claims its pric­ing is a ‘‘ strate­gic fail­ure’’.

‘‘ Ap­ple ob­vi­ously has a pre- mium pric­ing strat­egy but it is risky,’’ he says. ‘‘ A sub-$300 de­vice could have locked the mar­ket up for Ap­ple for the fore­see­able fu­ture. They have re­acted to the mar­ket­place de­mand­ing lower prices but this de­vice is pos­si­bly not cheap enough to ex­cite bud­get-con­scious con­sumers. Once you start look­ing at any Mini over 16GB you’re back into iPad 2 price ter­ri­tory.’’

While the iPad Mini starts at $369, it reaches $729 for the top model — just $170 be­low the fourth gen­er­a­tion, full-size iPad that is sub­stan­tially more pow­er­ful. Fadaghi says this price ‘‘ might also put off peo­ple buy­ing the Mini as a sec­ond tablet’’ and may force Ap­ple to con­sider a price cut in the near fu­ture.

But other an­a­lysts ar­gue that Ap­ple’s smaller tablet will be suc­cess­ful re­gard­less of price con­cerns.

IHS iSup­pli tablet re­search di­rec­tor Rhoda Alexan­der pre­dicts the iPad Mini will help to dou­ble sales of 7-inch tablets this year and again in 2013.

‘‘ Ap­ple will suc­cess­fully po­si­tion the smaller iPad as a de­vice that will be at­trac­tive and easy to adopt for both new and re­turn­ing cus­tomers,’’ she says. ‘‘ This will spur rapid sales growth and pro­vide tough com­pe­ti­tion for other com­pa­nies con­tend­ing in this size range.’’

IHS fore­casts sales of more than 34 mil­lion 7-inch tablets this year, rep­re­sent­ing 28 per cent of the mar­ket, and a fur­ther jump to 67 mil­lion next year.

But Ovum prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst Adam Leach and Piper Jaf­fray an­a­lyst Gene Mun­ster both warn that the iPad Mini’s pop­u­lar­ity could risk sales of the full-size, full-priced iPad, and it may en­cour­age some users to de­lay lap­top pur­chases.

Mun­ster says the com­pany will ‘‘ lose one mil­lion stan­dard iPad’’ sales for ev­ery five mil­lion Mi­nis sold, while Leach says Ap­ple will need to lure new users to its smaller tablet to ‘‘ off­set’’ the cheaper de­vice. JEN­NIFER DUDLEYNICHOLSON

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