Apple officially announced the iPad Mini today to the surprise of no one. The smaller version of their iconic tablet was ‘outed’ by tech industry watchers weeks ago and is an inevitable response to the market traction gained by Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and the Amazon Kindle line. Apple did have one surprise up their sleeve–the unexpected announcement of a 4th generation iPad just a few months after the 3rd generation model was released.
So far the response to the iPad Mini has been somewhat underwhelming. The specs weren’t exactly impressive–the iPad Mini will have a 7.9-inch with the same proportions of the larger original tablet. The iPad’s ‘Mini-Me’ has a 1024 x 768 non-“Retina” display with the same pixel quality as the 2nd generation iPad. Under the hood, many of the iPad Mini’s specs are similar to the 2nd generation version of it’s larger predecessor. What disappointed many Apple fan boys and tech industry watchers was the entry price point of the iPad Mini–at $329 it’s significantly more expensive than the aforementioned devices that have established a beachhead in the smaller tablet category. Google’s Nexus 7 starts at $199 with significantly better specs, though less storage space (8 GB vs. 16 GB). The Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook–like the Nexus 7, running the Android OS–also start south of $200. Of course the Apple name has considerable brand equity and they’re betting than consumers will pay more for an underpowered tablet with more storage space and the iPad cachet.
More impressive was iPad’s surprise announcement of the 4th generation version of the larger iPad. It’ll have the same form factor with better graphics, a faster processor and 4G LTE capability. This unit will go on sale November 2 starting at the same $499 price point of the 3rd generation iPad. The surprise announcement of an improved and updated version of the original iPad was no doubt a shock to Microsoft which recently unveiled their first tablet entry, the Surface line. At similar price points to the iPad they’ve now got a higher qualitative bar to shoot for–since they aren’t going to compete on price their operating system will have to deliver a stellar performance.