Saturday, October 27, 2012

Apple's iPad Mini - Has Microsoft And Amazon Scrambling

Despite it's higher-than-expected price of $329, the debut of Apple's new smaller iPad, the iPad mini, this week looks to have created the kind of frenzy the company is famous for. Apple has already sold out of the white ipad mini during the pre-order period, and now the company is readying a 4G LTE version of the tablet for release on Nov. 21, according to tech blog 9to5Mac.

Apples iPad Mini
A report in the Apple-centric blog indicates Apple may start shipping iPad Mini tablets with 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless connectivity sooner than expected, arriving to customers on Nov. 21 with expedited shipping. The LTE-ready version starts at $459, while the WiFi-only iPad Mini starts at $329.

While Apple itself hasn't commented, it's possible the early sell-out of the devices was due to issues with the iPad mini's display panel. An NPD DisplaySearch report by Senior Analyst Richard Shim, said that although Apple is expanding its partner base for the iPad Mini, issues with the display panel would limit initial shipments.

Either way, the iPad mini is already off to an impressive start, and if analysts' predictions for the device are correct, this is the start of even bigger sales figures to come. According to research firm IHS, the iPad Mini could help the 7-inch tablet market double in size in 2012 and 2013. IHS noted that the report's projections were conservative figures that could be affected not only by demand for a smaller Apple tablet, but how well Apple would be able to meet demand.

Tech site Eweek also notes that, "Expected high demand for the Apple tablets in Asia could also drive sales to extraordinary levels."

The debut of Apple's iPad mini has left Amazon and Microsoft both scrambling to make cases for its tablets, in many cases by disparaging Apple's new tablet.

According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Amazon reportedly e-mailed a select group of customers a survey about the iPad Mini, shortly after its announcement this week.

The highly technical questionnaire, which is similar to surveys the company has sent on other topics in the past, asks customers to rate how Amazon's $199 7-inch Kindle Fire HD stacks up next to 7.9-inch tablet Apple unveiled Oct. 23.

"The new iPad Mini screen has a resolution of 1,024 by 768, corresponding to 163 pixels per inch," the questionnaire says. "If another device offered a detail of 216 pixels per inch, how would you rate it compared to the iPad Mini?" The comparison is a reference to the Kindle Fire HD - which offers just that resolution - according to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, which published Amazon's questionnaire.

"It looks like Amazon is trying to figure out if customers want an iPad," says Rishi Shah, a marketing consultant and blogger.

The questionnaire tries to gauge how the Kindle matches up against the new competition, he says, and even offers a $5 Amazon gift card as a reward for returning it.

There's nothing "clandestine" about such market research, says consumer advocate Edgar Dworksy. "Maybe they want to get a sense of new features that would be of the most interest," he says.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also spent a good amount of time on a quarterly earnings call Oct. 25 comparing the Kindle's specs to those of the iPad mini, which suggests Amazon is very anxious about Apple's new smaller tablet and wracking its brain to come up with a solution, says Peter Hildick-Smith, president of market researcher Codex Group. "Amazon is clearly concerned about its growing, direct competition with the world's most highly valued company," he says.

Amazon's consternation with Apple's iPad mini could be a sign Amazon knows its fighting a losing battle in terms of the higher-end tablet market, studies suggest.

The iPad Mini has many advantages over other 7-inch $199 tablets, according to a report this week by JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowtiz. The larger screen size, faster iO6 software and "look-and-feel" give it an edge over cheaper rivals, the report says. Since the price gap is also closing between the Kindle and the iPad, "Amazon is gearing up for a features war," says tech expert and blogger Jakob Nielsen.

Microsoft has been more brazen and direct in taking shots at Apple's iPad Mini. President of Windows and Windows Live, Steven Sinofsky said that Microsoft and its PC-making partners have found a way to deliver modern computing at a price far less than Apple.

He noted that there are full-featured Windows 8 laptops that sell for $279. "These are fantastic machines," Sinofsky said at the Oct. 25 launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet. At the iPad mini's price you can get a computer good enough to last a student through college, he said.

"It's $279," he said referring to some Windows 8 laptops. "Here we are, talking about seven-inch recreational tablets for $329."

Sinofsky said he is very pleased with the range of computers produced by the likes of Acer, Lenovo and Dell. He emphasized that there are numerous thin, light, touch-screen Ultrabooks that sell for hundreds less than Apple's $999 MacBook Air.

"It's not just discounting," Sinofsky said. "It's engineering work that drives the cost down."

iPad Mini Specs

You'll be able to get an iPad Mini Wi-Fi model in three memory configurations starting on November 2: $329 for 16GB, $429 for 32GB, and $529 for 64GB. Two weeks later on November 16, we'll see Wi-Fi + 4G models hit the shelves at $459 for 16GB, $559 for 32GB, and $659 for 64GB.

The 1,024x768-pixel resolution matches that of the iPad 2, but on a 7.9-inch display. "This definitely isn't Retina Display, but it's better-than-iPad-2 display. Videos look excellent, and the IPS screen has great wide-viewing angles," said CNET.

Includes a front-facing 720p-capable FaceTime camera, and a 5-megapixel back camera, and also supports 4G LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi at 5.2Ghz, Bluetooth 4.0, and will use Apple's Lightning connector, first seen on the iPhone 5.

Apple claims that the Mini has a 10-hour battery life.