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Why Apple wants to shrink the iPad

It’s been a year since Steve Jobs died, but one of his last legacies — the iPad mini — is reportedly working its way through development, and Apple watchers say it could be another game changer.

The late Apple CEO at one time hated the idea of a shrunken-down version of the tablet. But Jobs reportedly warmed to the idea he once scoffed was “dead on arrival” — and Asian suppliers for Apple have started mass production of a new tablet smaller than the current iPad, according to a report this month in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, some analysts say a mini-iPad could eventually outsell the original iPad. “We expect Apple to maintain the iconic aesthetics of the current iPad and blow away what competitors are offering in this smaller form-factor tablet market,” says Brian White, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets.

Why all the love for less iPad? Some experts believe that the new tablet, which will reportedly have a 7.85-inch liquid crystal display (compared to 9.7 inches for the iPad3) will be superior in many ways to the current 7-inch tablets on the market. For starters, the iPad mini will have access to the 680,000 apps that are designed to work with Apple’s suite of products — or “ecosystem” –as well as with tools and platforms like the iTunes music store, iCloud virtual storage system and Apple TV. It’s more difficult for developers to design apps for multiple Android tablets, says Yung Trang, president of TechBargains.com. “Therefore the quality of Apple apps is generally better,” he says. What’s more, Apple’s operating system is more intuitive than many Android tablets, Trang says.

Of course, it’s unlikely to beat smaller tablets in some key areas. For one thing, many tech pros expect the littler iPad will still outweigh other small tablets (the iPad 3 came under fire from critics who claimed its weight – at 652 grams, it’s 20% heavier than the 9-inch Nook HD from Barnes & Noble – made it difficult to carry and read.) Others argue that Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the 7-inch Nook HD will continue to attract more cost-conscious consumers; both sell for $199. It’s unclear what price tag the smaller iPad will fetch, but it will most likely be the most expensive small tablet on the market, says technology analyst Jeff Kagan.

Apple fans may not care. More than half of consumers say they’d be willing to pay $250 to $300 for a smaller iPad,  according to a recent survey by price comparison website PriceGrabber.com.


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