SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA // Apple Inc is refusing to compete on price with its rivals in the tablet market - it's pricing its new, smaller iPad well above the competition.
Yesterday, the company revealed the iPad Mini, with a screen that's about two-thirds the size of the full-sized model, and said it will cost from US$329 (Dh1,209).
Apple starts taking orders for the new model this Friday, said Phil Schiller, the marketing chief at an event in California. Wi-Fi-only models will be available from November 2. Later, the company will add models capable of accessing "LTE" wireless data networks.
The price fits into the Apple product line-up between the iPad 2 at $399 and the latest version of the iPod touch at $299. But company watchers had been expecting Apple to price the iPad Mini at $250 to $300 to counter the threat of less expensive tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire, which starts at $159. Barnes & Noble's Nook HD and Google's Nexus 7 both start at $199.
When pre-orders start, the iPad Mini will be competing for the attention of gadget shoppers with the release of Windows 8, Microsoft's new operating system.
The screen of the iPad Mini is 7.9 inches on the diagonal, making it larger than the 7-inch screens of the competitors. It also sports two cameras, on the front and on the back, which the competitors do not.
The iPad Mini is as thin as a pencil and weighs about 300 grams, half as much as the full-sized iPad with its 9.7-inch screen, Mr Schiller said.
The screen resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels, the same as the iPad 2 and a quarter of the resolution of the flagship iPad, which starts at $499.
"It's not just a shrunk-down iPad, it's an entirely new design," Mr Schiller said.
Apple's late founder, Steve Jobs, attacked the whole idea of smaller tablets in his last appearance on a conference call with analysts, in October 2010.
"The reason we wouldn't make a 7-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit a price point. It's because we don't think you can make a great tablet with a 7-inch screen," Jobs said at the time. "The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad."
Eddy Cue, the Apple senior vice president, had a different opinion at the time. He had come to the conclusion that a 7-inch tablet would work well, and tried to convince Jobs that it was a product the company should pursue. In an internal email sent in January 2011, he said Jobs was starting to come around. The email surfaced as part of Apple's patent trial against Samsung Electronics Co. this year. Jobs died last October.
Company watchers have been expecting the iPad Mini for a year, and most of the details, except the price, had leaked out. More surprisingly, Apple also said it's upgrading its full-sized iPad tablet just six months after launching a new model, doubling the speed of the processor. Previously, the company has updated the iPad once a year.
The fourth-generation iPad will have a better camera and work on more "LTE" wireless data networks around the world. Apple is also replacing the 30-pin dock connector with the new, smaller "Lightning" connector introduced with the iPhone 5 a month ago.
The price of the new full-sized model stays the same as the previous version, starting at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only version with 16 gigabytes of memory.
Apple shares fell $14.83, or 2.3 per cent, to $619.20 when the price was announced. Shares of Barnes & Noble Inc. jumped 91 cents, or 6.3 per cent, to $15.35.
Shares of Amazon.com Inc. were down 12 cents, or less than 0.1 per cent, at $233.66 while the rest of the stock market was in retreat.