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Apple unwraps mini-iPad to take on Google, Amazon

Robert Galbraith | Reuters
Robert Galbraith | Reuters
Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, introduces the new iPad mini during an Apple event in San Jose, California on Oct. 23, 2012.
By Poornima Gupta and Noel Randewich, Reuters

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple Inc. will begin to sell an 8-inch version of the iPad on Friday to compete with smaller tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle, but set a higher-than-expected price tag of $329 that Wall Street fears could curb demand.

The 7.9 inch “iPad mini” marks the iPhone-maker’s first foray into the smaller-tablet segment. Apple hopes to beat back incursions onto its home turf of consumer electronics hardware, while safeguarding its lead in a larger tablet space that even

deep-pocketed rivals like Samsung Electronics have found tough to penetrate.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and marketing chief Phil Schiller introduced the new tablet, which has most of the functions and features of the full-size iPad but in a smaller package.

Priced at $329 for a wi-fi only model, the iPad mini is a little costlier than some predicted, but some analysts see that as a bid to retain premium pricing levels. Others fear the gadget will lure buyers away from the $499 flagship 10-inch iPad, while proving ineffective in combating the threat of Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7, both of which are sold at or near cost.

The focus on growing competition was evident as Schiller — at a launch event held in San Jose’s California Theatre — compared the iPad mini with Google’s popular 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, citing feature by feature why the new Apple device was superior. It is unusual for Apple to single out a specific competitor in its product launches.

In a surprise move, Apple also announced a fourth-generation full-sized iPad just six months after unveiling a third generation device to much fanfare. The latest tablet, which again goes for $499, is faster and slimmer and comes just days before Microsoft is due to show off its own “Surface” tablet.

The original iPad was launched in 2010 by late Apple visionary Steve Jobs and went on to take a big chunk out of PC sales, upending the industry and reinventing mobile computing with its apps-based model. Apple has sold 100 million iPads so far, with the device accounting for 26 percent of Apple’s fiscal third-quarter revenue.

A smaller tablet is the first device to be added to Apple’s compact portfolio under Cook, who took over from Jobs just before his death a year ago.

“It’s very cool,” Cook said of the iPad mini. “We told you earlier this year you would see some incredible innovation from Apple across the year. We think we kept our promise.”

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