Apple To Announce iPad Mini On October 17?

Rumors are swirling that Apple will announce a new iPad Mini in a press launch on October 17. Although Apple haven’t confirmed it, the consensus of opinion is that the smaller and cheaper version of the iPad will have a 7.85” screen.

iPad Mini could appear in 3G and WiFi-only variants – just like its big brother. Leaked pictures of the alleged tablet also show it with a Lightning dock connection – better suited to the smaller footprint.

As for price, who knows? A smaller iPad is obviously designed to compete with popular 7” Android tablets like Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD.

For this reason many pundits seem to assume a price point of $200 – $250 for the WiFi version – similar to its main rivals. Personally, I’m not convinced. Apple has never shown any interest in price matching competitors before and I doubt they’ll want to start a price war now – the Nexus and Kindle are thought to sell at almost cost price anyway so there would be no winner in a race to the bottom.

The fact that an iPad Mini may boast a larger (almost 8”) screen also helps justify a price differential – I’d expect the minimum price to be $300 – $350, comfortably below the price of an iPad 2 ($399) but well above ‘less desirable’ Androids. Reassuringly expensive, Apple might say.

Considering Steve Jobs’ infamous disdain for the smaller tablet form factor, it will be interesting to see how Apple can market the Mini without some loss of face – chasing the competition doesn’t look too good for a company that prides itself in setting the pace.

A more serious dilemma is the degree of market overlap between an iPad Mini and the larger iPad – will the Mini just cannibalize sales of its big brother instead of the Android competition? Unless it has a retina screen or other standout feature the Mini might be caught between two stools – still too big and expensive for the casual tablet user but not big (or expensive) enough for potential iPad buyers.

A small tablet, yesterday…

Image conscious buyers may also have concerns – there are bound to be some who will wonder what a Mini will ‘say’ about them – and if the answer is ‘can’t afford a proper iPad’ then they will probably keep their hands in their pockets…

However, I guess with Apple’s backing, brand and existing user base it is also quite possible that an iPad Mini just might create a niche market for an 8” form factor all to itself.

What do you think – would you be interested in a smaller iPad and at what price? Let us know in the comments.