Apple unveils costlier-than-expected iPad Mini

Apple unveiled a new iPad Mini today, positioned between the iPhone and the iPad, aimed directly at competition from Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus tablets but with a higher price than forecast.

Computer-maker surprises with new standard iPad, iMac and Mac Mini models

Apple unveiled a new iPad Mini today, positioned between the iPhone and the iPad, aimed directly at competition from Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus tablets but with a higher price than forecast.

The iPad Mini swept in with a new fourth-generation iPad in the existing size, featuring numerous upgrades, and new iMacs and Mac Mini computers.

The iPad Mini was shown for the first time at a media event in California, where chief executive Tim Cook alternated on stage with marketing executive Phil Schiller.

The device has a 7.9-inch screen (measured diagonally), which is smaller than the conventional iPad's 9.7-inch display and bigger than the iPhone's four-inch screen. The Mini is slightly larger than the seven-inch display offered by its main competitors.

The mystery until Tuesday had been the price, variously forecast to range between $249 and $299 US. The Kindle Fire starts at $159, and the Nexus 7 at $199. Meanwhile, Apple sells the iPad 2 for $399 and the four-inch iPod Touch for $199. Company watchers were pegging the price of the smaller iPad somewhere in between.

Schiller announced that the iPad Mini will begin at $329 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model,with orders being taken starting Friday and shipping to begin a week later.

Apple shares fluctuated in Nasdaq trading after the announcement, then fell 2.8 per cent to the $616 range, possibly reflecting investor concerns about the price of the iPad Mini. The Nasdaq composite index slid more than half a per cent.

A fully loaded iPad Mini with cellular service and 64 GB of memory is priced in the U.S. at $659, which puts it in a much higher price range than its immediate rivals.

Apple described the device as 23 per cent thinner and 53 per cent lighter than the third-generation iPad, with faster wireless performance and up to 10 hours of battery life.

Cook said the company has sold 100 million iPads since the tablet's introduction 2½ years ago.

New iMac with super-thin display screen

Apple also unveiled a newly redesigned 13-inch MacBook Pro on Tuesday with a high-density "Retina" display, priced at $1,699 with 8 GB of random access memory.

As well, the company showed a thinner, redesigned desktop iMac computer — which Schiller described as the company's flagship — and an upgraded low-end "Mac Mini," a small computer sold without keyboard or screen now offering a faster processor and four USB ports.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, introduces the iPad Mini in San Jose, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

The company said the Mac Mini will be available immediately.

The audience cheered as Schiller unveiled the new iMac computer. It resembles a super-thin display screen, but Schiller noted: "There is an entire computer in here."

There will be models with Apple's new fusion drive, a combination of the traditional, spinning hard drive and one using "flash" memory. Flash is faster, but capacity is smaller.

Apple said the fusion drive will have the speed of flash and the capacity of regular hard drives, and that the operating system will manage flash and hard drives "to create a single storage volume that intelligently manages files to optimize read and write performance."

The iMacs will come in two display sizes: the 21.5-inch version starts at $1,299, and the 27-inch at $1,799, and both will be available in December.

As he introduced the new iMacs, he showed on a giant display how the iMac has shrunk over the years.

Steve Jobs was skeptical

One of the first competitors to Apple's iPad was a Samsung tablet with a seven-inch screen. Apple’s late founder, Steve Jobs, made a rare appearance at an October 2010 conference call with analysts — his last — to deride the concept.

"The reason we wouldn’t make a seven-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a price point. It’s because we don’t think you can make a great tablet with a seven-inch screen," Jobs said. "The seven-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad."

Jobs, who died last October, had strong opinions, but he also changed his mind frequently. The production of a smaller iPad is not the first time that Apple has made a product that Jobs initially dismissed as ridiculous.

In an internal email sent in January 2011, Apple senior vice-president Eddy Cue said that a seven-inch tablet would work well and that Jobs was starting to come around to the idea. The email surfaced as part of Apple’s patent trial against Samsung Electronics Co. this year.

With files from The Associated Press