If the Apple rumor mill proves correct, the unveiling of the iPad Mini this week could mean sayonara for the iPad 2.
At least, that’s the prediction of Evercore Partners analyst Rob Cihra, who wrote in a recent note to investors that he believes Apple will remove the iPad 2 from its lineup to make room for a smaller tablet. Apple insider excerpted parts of Cihra’s note Oct. 19.
Cihra also stated his belief that Apple will sell roughly 7 million iPad Mini units in the last quarter of the year.
Of course, that’s just one analyst speculating about the future plans of a company known for playing things close to the proverbial vest: Apple’s Oct. 23 event in California could feature all sorts of surprises. So what do we know about the iPad Mini?
First, that it might not be called the iPad Mini—that’s a moniker dreamed up by the press. Second, a cheaper and smaller iPad could impact the market for e-readers and “price-sensitive users,” according to J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz, which in turn could mean a challenging future for Amazon, Google, and other IT vendors marketing cheaper tablets. Third, the media—driven by unnamed sources and blurry spy photos—seems to have collectively settled on a 7.85-inch screen without a high-resolution Retina Display.
Fourth, there’s the matter of price. Moskowitz believes the iPad Mini could retail for $249, and others agree with that sentiment—Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, for example, places the tablet’s price at anywhere from $250 to $300.
That price point would definitely undercut the iPad 2, which starts at $399. Squeezed between the latest-generation iPad with Retina Display and a new, smaller tablet at a radically reduced price point, the iPad 2 might find itself the odd device out.
Other questions remain: Will the iPad Mini be Wi-Fi only, or will Apple offer a version with some sort of 3G or 4G connection? Will introducing yet another screen size complicate life for app developers and put Apple’s portfolio at risk of fragmentation, an accusation often leveled against the plethora of different-sized Google Android devices?
That fragmentation issue has come up before. In October 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs appeared on an earnings call to rail against 7-inch tablets as too small, telling the assembled analysts and media: “We think about software strategies first, as we know that software developers aren’t going to deal well with all these different-size products.”
But if Apple’s releasing a smaller iPad, it’s presumably found a way to handle those concerns. And the margin for error is small: between Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, Google’s Nexus 7, and the upcoming wave of Windows 8 tablets, the mobile-device space is more crowded (and advanced) than ever.