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Apple's iPad mini bows, promising to stir up competition for smaller tablets

After months of rumors, the iPad mini was unveiled yesterday by Apple and the device looks to be competing head-on with the Nexus 7 from Google.

With a starting price of $329, the iPad mini is more expensive than other 7-inch tablets but it also comes with better support in terms of the number of high-quality apps that are available for it. The new iPad mini is likely to see strong sales this holiday season and next year, quickly becoming a force in the smaller tablet space as well as driving the overall size of this segment.

?The iPad mini is designed to extend the iPad line to compete with the Kindle Fire head on,? said Scott Michaels, vice president at Atimi Software, Vancouver, Canada. "This is right up against the Nexus 7.

?If you are looking for a smaller tablet, you will be looking for a Nexus 7 or the iPad mini,? he said.

?People want a Kindle Fire because they have a large Kindle library that they have already purchased or because they like how it feels.?

The right price?
While the larger iPad dominates the tablet market ? Apple reported yesterday that it has sold 100 million iPads - the success of devices such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble point to the fact that many consumers are looking for a more portable experience that can easily access a variety of content.

The iPad mini could be the device for Apple enthusiasts and consumers in the market for a smaller tablet.

?It?s now a device well within the reach of many consumers that simply couldn?t stomach the iPad?s $500+ price tag,? said Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer at Velti, San Francisco . ?There are also plenty of Apple enthusiasts who have been waiting for this screen size.?

One of the main attractions of the iPad mini is likely to be the significant number of apps that are already available for iOS tablets.

However, the iPad mini will not have much of an impact on developers, as their existing iPad apps should render well on the mini.

?The iPad has such a bigger ecosystem in terms of all the apps that are out there,? Atimi?s Mr. Michaels said. ?If you want to run all of those apps, you want to get something from the iPad lineup because a lot of them don?t exist for the Kindle Fire.

?Because they use the same pixel issue, it should handle and scale without us having to additional work,? he said.

?A huge amount of our customers are breathing a huge sigh a relief because they don?t? have to come up with budget this year to make sure that their apps work on the iPad mini.?

Smaller is big
Research firm IHS iSuppli expects global sales of 7-inch tablets to double this year compared with 2011 and double again next year for a total of 67 million units, driven in large part by the new iPad mini.

However, Apple may face some production challenges and component supply issues for the smaller iPad, which could limit its ability to keep up with demand, according to IHS iSuppli. If Apple is able to resolve these issues, 2013 shipments and sales could exceed the forecast.

The new iPad mini has a 7.9-inch screen and 1024 x 768 resolution, which is the same resolution as the iPad 2. It is 7.2mm thick and weighs .68 pounds, which is 53 percent lighter than the fourth-generation iPad.

It includes a dual-core A6 processor, a FaceTime HD and 10 hours of battery life.

The iPad mini starts at $329 in a WiFi-only version with 16GB, $429 for 32 GB and $529 for 64GB. The WiFi and LTE version starts at $459 for 16GB, $559 for 32GB and $659 for 64GB.

Apple also introduced a fourth generation full-sized iPad yesterday, which has a better display, CPU performance and graphics and will go for $500 for a 16GB version and $630 with LTE access.

The fourth-gen iPad and iPad mini are available for preorder this Friday. The WiFi version of the iPad Mini and the new iPad will ship on Nov. 2, with the 4G version shipping two weeks later.

Marketers take notice
Given that smaller tablet often deliver strong engagement levels and that the iPad mini could have a significant and almost immediate impact on the market, savvy marketers should start planning for it right away.

The iPad could also impact shopping as tablet owners are proving to be active shoppers on their devices, engaging in a variety of shopping activities. Given the lower entry price point for the iPad mini, this means that more consumers are likely to be shopping from smaller tablets and marketers should be optimizing their experiences accordingly.

? Historically, marketers have reacted to new Apple devices immediately given their impressive market share, and the iPad mini should be no exception,? Velti?s Mr. Subramanian said.

?Based on the data we?ve seen from a range of device sizes, the 7-inch tablet market is seeing significantly higher engagement levels,? he said. ?If the rumored 7.85 inch screen is true, then the iPad Mini could be the most successful tablet on the market for engagement.

?So, marketers should definitely be thinking about a strategy now and planning for it!?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York