By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
After months of rumours and speculation peppered by part leaks, 3D renderings and dummy devices, it looks like Apple is readying to unveil the much awaited iPad mini. A report from Reuters states that Apple will release a smaller and less costly iPad mini with a 7.85-inch screen. the device is expected to compete against popular tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire, RIM's PlayBook and Google's Nexus 7.
The Reuters report even tells of some hands-on time with the still unannounced device. "One Wall Street analyst said he had seen the smaller tablet, dubbed iPad mini by the media, while visiting component suppliers in Asia," the report said.
"We actually had the opportunity to play with a pilot iPad Mini used by one of the vendors," Topeka Capital analyst Brian White said.
"This 7.85-inch iPad Mini fit our hands like a glove and we were easily able to tuck the device in our sport coat, offering consumers a more mobile iPad experience for certain use cases."
Apple isn't known for creating 'me-too' devices in a category. The arrival of the iPad mini will likely correspond with the much awaited revamp of iTunes as well as iBooks announcements and other possible content partnerships.
Apple will likely offer something unique to the 7-inch tablet space either in specific functionality or in terms of content and apps.
Smaller tablets have been favoured for being more portable and easier to use for one-handed reading.
They are better suited for mobile gaming and are also priced lower making them viable for markets that might avoid the larger, more expensive tablets.
Pricing of the iPad mini will be a hot topic since competing 7-inch tablets ring in at $199.
Both Amazon and Google earn little to nothing on the hardware of 7-inch tablet offerings which are being sold mostly to push the content and app ecosystems. Apple has never followed this model and makes profit on the sale of every piece of hardware it sells.
A smaller iPad will have to be cheaper than the $399 iPad 2. Most sources pin the iPad mini's possible price at around $349 but Apple might decide to price the device more aggressively. A recent leak from German website MobileGeeks shows probable pricing for up to 16 different iPad Mini SKUs (with various black and white, WiFi-only and Wifi plus 4G LTE variants).
If we are to believe this leak, pricing for an 8GB iPad Mini with WiFi will cost $250 which certainly puts it in the ballpark of the current 7-inch leaders, the Kindle and the Nexus 7. The leaked document shows a variety of models topping off at a $650 64GB model with 3G or 4G LTE connectivity. We'll know soon enough if these so called leaks are valid.
In terms of features the iPad mini is expected to have similar specs to the iPad 2, a front-facing FaceTime camera and a rear camera for photos and video. It will run iOS 6, have access to Siri and will likely have a 8-10 hour battery life.
iPad mini will sport the new Lightning adapter that debuted last month with the iPhone 5 and new iPods and it will likely have a display similar to the the iPad 2 with slightly lower pixel density than the iPhones, iPod Touch and Retina iPad.
Aside from the iPad mini, Apple is expected to release updated iMacs and there's also been persistent talk about a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina Display. If this follows the trend of the larger 15-inch MacBook Pro, we expect a thinner, lighter notebook with all the bells and whistles but at a cheaper price point. The transition to Retina Displays on everything Apple sells seems to be inevitable and what starts with the laptops inevitably trickles down the line.
Another Apple product that is begging for an upgrade is the Mac Mini which has evolved into a powerful yet diminuitive desktop computer. Aside from being the cheapest Mac Apple sells, it has slowly but surely become powerful enough to consider as a replacement for the discontinued XServe line but at a radically cheaper price.
2012 has already been a monumental year for Apple as it launched the new iPad with Retina Display, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, the iPhone 5 as well as new iPods. In terms of software, Apple released iOS 6 as well as OS X Mountain Lion which were significant updates to the core operating systems that run their devices.
The October 23 launch event is the cherry on top, the company's last chance to release the products for the holiday buying season and would deliver on CEO Tim Cook's promise that 2012 will be a year with a lot to look forward to.