Apple on Tuesday sent the press an invitation to a likely iPad mini event, hinting at a smaller tablet by offering "a little more to show you."
The "iPad mini" is believed to be a seven-or-so-inch tablet with a sub-$300 price tag. Apple's (Fortune 500) current iPad lineup starts at $399 for the year-old iPad 2 and $499 for the third-generation iPad, both of which have a near-10-inch screen. ,
Since the iPad debuted in 2010, no tablet challenger has come close to unseating it. Apple held a 70% share of the tablet market in the second quarter, according to the latest data from IHS iSuppli.
Only Amazon (Fortune 500), with its Kindle Fire, has made even a dent in the tablet space. , Google (Fortune 500), with its Nexus 7, could also be a contender, but shipment figures for its device haven't yet been released. Both the Kindle and the Nexus tablets have seven-inch screens and are priced at $199. ,
Though neither has enjoyed the success of the iPad, they seem to have sold enough to get Apple's attention. Apple (Fortune 500) could potentially stomp out the competition by making a low-cost, seven-inch tablet of its own in the form of the iPad mini. ,
It's an idea Apple has toyed with for several years.
Among the many internal documents made public in Apple's patent battle with Samsung was a January 2011 e-mail from Eddy Cue, Apple's head of software and services, in which he told management: "I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one."
Jobs seemed "receptive" to the idea, he said.
That marked a turnaround from Jobs' initial stance. Apple's chief visionary famously trashed seven-inch tablets, calling them so small, they should include sandpaper, "so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size."
Next week's highly anticipated event hits amid a slew high-profile gadget launches this fall. Microsoft (Fortune 500) will be releasing Windows 8 and its Surface tablet on Oct. 26, and , Nintendo will launch its Wii U video game console on Nov. 18. Apple released the iPhone 5 last month and has already sold more than 5 million of them.
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