Apple sent out a media invite Tuesday to an event on Oct. 23, expected to be the introduction of a long-rumored smaller iPad to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's (GOOG) Nexus 7.
The invite, brightly colored with the top of an Apple logo, simply says "We've got a little more to show you" and invites media members to an event at the historic California Theatre in downtown San Jose. Apple last introduced a new product at the California Theatre in 2005, when late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs showed off the company's first video iPod and the debut of television shows on iTunes; the iPod U2 Special Edition was also introduced there in 2004.
A smaller and less expensive iPad would be a logical step by the Cupertino company to thwart sales of similar tablets by Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Rumors have focused on a screen size of about 7.85 inches diagonally for the so-called iPad Mini, notably smaller than the standard iPad's 9.7-inch screen.
Smaller devices are easier to carry in a purse or suit pocket and cost about $200, far more affordable than
the latest version of the iPad, which starts at $499. An "iPad Mini" would allow Apple to protect its retail flank, experts have said, effectively corralling off that lower price point from its rivals.
Analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee told Bloomberg News last week that while "these competitors have a tough enough time competing against the 10-inch iPad," a smaller, less expensive iPad Mini "will make the competition even tougher. It tells you how hard it is to beat Apple. These other companies have to either lose money or break even on these products."
Several news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and Reuters, have reported this month that Apple has already begun production of the device. Other reports have said that Apple will also introduce a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, smaller than the current 15-inch model.
Jobs famously denounced a smaller iPad model as late as 2010, when he said "One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70 percent of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. ... The reason we won't make a 7-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit a lower price point, it's because we think the screen is too small to express the software."
However, business needs seem to have trumped the thinking of Jobs.
"Even though we all remember Steve Jobs saying you'd have to file down your fingers to use a 7-inch tablet, it sounds like it's finally going to happen," Needham analyst Charles Wolf told this newspaper earlier this month. "But while it's been proven there's a market for a smaller iPad, I think it's the lower price point that Apple's concerned with."
Apple stock, struggling since the launch of the iPhone 5 led to concerns of production delays, shot up Tuesday, gaining 2.4 percent to close at $649.79. Before Tuesday's gains, Apple -- the most valuable U.S. company in terms of market capitalization -- had fallen 9.4 percent on Wall Street since the launch of its newest smartphone on Sept. 21.
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