Since its introduction of the iPad nearly two and a half years ago, Apple has held onto the lion's share of the tablet market. In particularl, Apple has managed to hold off all competitors that dared to mimic the 9.7-inch or 10.1-inch platform made famous by the iPad. As of October 23, Apple claims to have sold over 100 million units from their iPad family, with more 62.5 percent of the total tablets shipped in 2012 (according to IDC).
However, the new threat to Apple's dominance in the tablet space may not come from 9.7-inch and higher models. Surprisingly, Apple faces its largest competition in the tablet space from a form factor that, previously, Apple had not offered–the 7-inch model.
Approximately one year ago, Amazon shook the tablet landscape by introducing the first sub-$200 tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire. While many were skeptical of the online book vendor's foray into electronics, many others saw the move as a stroke of genius. By combining the vast library of online titles at its disposal, Amazon would be able to match the current industry leader, Apple, in the one area that Apple had a significant advantage over their other competitors—content.
With more that 6 million Kindle Fire units sold upon its release, another powerful player in Silicon Valley took notice. Despite being known as the search-engine leader, Google Inc. used its experience in previous electronics releases to introduce the Google Nexus 7, another sub-$200 tablet featuring impressive specifications such as a quad-core processor and a rich display that was unexpected for that price point.
The introduction of these two devices, and subsequent improvements like the Kindle Fire HD, caught the attention of consumers with both devices selling in high volumes similar to that of their Apple counterparts. The Google Nexus 7 is expected to sell over 8 million units before the end of 2012.
With the 7-inch market growing at an exponential rate, it was only a matter of time before Apple would address this product segment. Despite Steve Jobs' protestations that 7-inch tablets were "Too big to compete with a smartphone; too small to compete with an iPad," on Oct. 23, Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced Apple's latest device, the iPad Mini.
Featuring a 7.9-inch LCD display with 163 pixels-per-square-inch, the iPad Mini also boasts the use of the same A5 dual-core processor found within the iPad 2, WiFi-accessibility and the availability of an LTE-enabled model. The selection of a larger 7.9-inch screen was driven by Apple's designers, who felt that a 7.9-inch screen resulted in 25% increase in screen over their 7-inch counterparts, and would improve the user-experience of their iOS 6 operating system on the iPad Mini.