$200 Apple iPad mini in 2012 to combat Amazon Kindle Fire?

$200 Apple iPad mini in 2012 to combat Amazon Kindle Fire?

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This far from the first time we’ve heard rumors of an Apple iPad mini. Some say it’s going to be smaller. Others say it’s going to be cheaper. Whatever the case, the rumor has been flying around for as long as the iPad has existed. But now the rumors might be carrying a little more weight, thanks to the introduction of the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire. Is Cupertino feeling threatened?

Well, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White has been making his way through the factories in China and Taiwan. During his journeys with the component makers, he’s heard more than a few rumblings about the possibility of an iPad mini. He’s quick to point out, though, that the supposed iPad mini may not necessarily be mini in size. Rather, it’s more likely that it’ll be mini in spec and mini (or at least mini-er) in price relative to the main iPad product.

He goes on to say that he expects the iPad mini (which may get a different name at time of launch) to ship in the “first few months of 2012.” He says that this “lower priced iPad could be priced in the mid-to-high $200 range,” which pits it directly against the likes of the Kindle Fire. The iPad mini can then sell alongside the higher-spec’d iPad 3, which is expected to be announced in Q2 2012.

Somehow, I find the prospect of an iPad mini less and less plausible as the days go by. Apple has been selling itself as a premium product — the cheapest MacBook is still more expensive than many entry-level Windows laptops — and I don’t expect their approach to tablets to change any time soon, even with the recent departure of Steve Jobs. Then again, selling the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS alongside the iPhone 4S could be indicative of an approach toward the more affordable end of the market.

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