The new iPad mini is shown next to a full sized model.
Is Apple's little iPad cheap enough to hold back the Android hordes at the gate?
The predictions about the iPad mini were pretty much spot on. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that there were no surprises -- no impressive extra feature or frustrating limitation to help the iPad mini stand apart from its big brother.
It seems like we now have a clear choice between iPad models based purely on screen and price. I really thought Apple would pitch the mini as a companion to the iPad rather than as an alternative. You can only wonder if Steve Jobs' infamous reality distortion field would have painted a different picture of the iPad mini and its place -- somehow justifying the backflip after bad-mouthing smaller tablets for so long.
The $A369 iPad mini's primary function seems to be as a grenade thrown in among the smaller and cheaper Android competitors such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. Personally I think Apple missed the mark by about $70. In Australia $300 is considered the magic "cash and carry" mark for retailers. Once home entertainment gear such as VCRs and DVD players fell under $300 they became almost impulse buys. If the iPad mini could sneak down to $299 it would take a major bite out of Android's market share but, at $369 and with no chance of retailers discounting, the iPad mini needs to work a lot harder to justify itself.
No matter how much of a one-eyed Apple supporter you are, you have to concede that the iPad mini is a direct response to the Android threat which has been eating away at the iPad's market share. You might say Apple has played right into Android's hands by moving the fight into the budget tablet arena where Android is at home. At this price the iPad mini will struggle to hurt Android. With nothing but size and price to distinguish it from the new iPad 4, the iPad mini will cannibalise iPad sales more than it eats into Android sales.
Apple had the chance to deliver a killer blow to the Android menace, but it failed. It should have stripped out a few more features from the iPad mini and dropped the price by $100 to position it as a serious Android competitor. Instead it's only delivered an iPad competitor which could do as much harm as good.