Apple's new iPad mini hit store shelves today, a product launch aimed directly at competition from Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus tablets.

Fans began to line up outside the technology giant's retail stores worldwide, when the smaller iPad went on sale at 8 a.m. local time, but some reports say the queues were more diminutive than at Apple's other launches.

The smaller version of its popular iPad has a 7.9 inch screen (measured diagonally) and retails at $329 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model — much higher than forecast.

Apple has 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.

Queues in Tokyo, Hong Kong, NYC

Fans in cities including Tokyo and Hong Kong lined up outside the Apple store to be the first to buy the company's latest release. Over 300 people camped outside the Apple store with some arriving as early as Wednesday with fold-up chairs, sleeping bags and food supplies.

Designer Park Ju-an had been waiting outside the store in Seoul, South Korea since 5:30am local time, and said Apple had given those in the queue hand-warmers due to the cold weather.

"The overall mood here is really good," he said. "I am wondering if we are going to do high-fives [with Apple staff] like in overseas countries."

But in other major cities, including Sydney and New York, crowds were much thinner than at previous Apple launches, such as the iPhone 5, Reuters reported.

About 50 people waited for the Apple store in Sydney, Australia, to open, where in the past the line had stretched for several blocks when the company debuted new iPhones, according to Reuters.

Still, Apple enthusiasts lined up at stores in New York and Washington, D.C., Reuters reported, just days after the cities were battered by Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest storms to ever hit the United States.

Apple reprimanded by U.K. judges

The new product comes one day after the U.S. technology giant was reprimanded by British judges for not fully apologizing to competitor Samsung Electronics Co for falsely claiming the South Korean company copied its iPad.

Apple Inc. was ordered to print an apology on its website after the U.K. courts repeatedly rejected its claim that Samsung ripped off its designs when creating its own tablet computer, the Galaxy Tab.

Apple did post an apology, but judges at London's High Court ruled Thursday that it didn't go far enough and ordered a new one posted to its site within 48 hours. 

Samsung and Apple are locked in a series of international lawsuits over alleged copyright violations, including a California case which saddled Samsung with a $1 billion fine for copying Apple's design.