Apple to release cheaper tablets

Two people have revealed that Apple has plans to debut a smaller, cheaper iPad by the end of the year to help maintain their stronghold on the tablet market.

The two people, who have asked not to be identified, said that the new model will sport a screen that is smaller than eight inches (20 centimeters), compared to the 9.7-inch (25-centimeter) screen on Apple’s market-leading iPad, launched in 2010.

It also will not have the high-definition screen that the iPad released in March has, Bloomberg reported.

The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources as saying that component parts manufacturers had been ordered to gear up for mass production of the tablets in September, indicating the launch may be drawing near.

The newspaper cited one source as saying that Apple was working with screen-makers LG Display of South Korea and Taiwan’s AU Optronics.

Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc says that the speculated less expensive iPad will help Apple gain traction in the advancing tablet market by undercutting the ambitions of Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

The iPad has been dominating the tablet market, with a strong 61 per cent share, ever since it went on sale in April 2010. DisplaySearch has predicted that sales will reach US$66.4 billion (S$84 billion) this year.

However, rivals of Apple are also eager to leave their mark in the market.

On June 27, Google announced the sale of the Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet.

Mircosoft also announced the launch of their tablet called Surface earlier in that month. Amazon’s Kindle Fire was launched in 2011.

Jan Dawson, an analyst at Ovum Ltd, suggests to Apple rivals that their best chance of success will be to focus on markets that Apple have yet to venture into.

The Surface tablet will mostly appeal to buyers who want to continue using Microsoft Windows software on a tablet platform, said Dawson.

While the price of these Microsoft tablets have yet to be released, it is said that the higher-end version will probably be more expensive than the iPad.

It will also be targeted more at the Ultrabooks, an emerging class of laptop PCs.

However, Wu said that there will still be a challenge in competing with the less expensive iPad as the 225,000 apps tailored specifically for Apple’s tablet are still a strong pull for customers.

Apple also has more than 360 retail stores where the device can be purchased worldwide.

Google said the Nexus 7 will only be available on its online store while Microsoft is set to sell its tablets online and at its smaller chain of 20 stores.

In 2010, the late Steve Jobs was sceptical about smaller tablets as he believed that the iPad’s current size was the minimum required to ensure user-friendliness.

However, one unnamed source has said that Apple had been considering introducing a smaller tablet since the original iPad was launched.

This has proved successful for Apple’s iPod, which is currently the world’s top music player.

Asia One