The new eight-inch iPad mini now matches the larger iPad Air in processor power, screen resolution and battery life. It runs all the same apps.
But the iPad mini has two things that make it more attractive to many consumers than the iPad Air: It's easier to handle, and it's $100 cheaper.
Even though the iPad mini's screen is a third smaller than its full-sized counterpart, Apple(AAPL) bumped its screen resolution to a "Retina display." That will lessen the already minor impact of staring at a smaller screen.
By putting the smaller iPad mini on level ground with the iPad Air, Apple tacitly announced that it is focusing its tablet strategy on the iPad mini. Despite all the marketing theatrics surrounding the iPad Air, make no mistake about it: the iPad mini is THE iPad now.
Looking forward, the upgraded iPad mini should be the better selling iPad. Unless you have a real, tangible need for the extra real estate on your tablet screen, there's no real reason to buy the iPad Air.
That's not to say that the iPad Air will fade into total obscurity. Creative types, professionals in specialized fields, and road warriors still hell bent on using their iPad as a laptop will find utility in the iPad Air. But for anyone who is primarily looking for a media consumption device, the iPad mini is more than game.
But Apple couldn't dismiss the market trends. When Apple released the iPad mini last year, it was an experiment of sorts for the company, and Apple found a way to make it work. Four months after the release of the first-generation iPad mini, tech consultancy NPD was already noticing that the iPad mini was cannibalizing sales of the 9.7-inch iPad.
In a rare moment for consumer technology, everyone wins as a result.