Apple’s iPad Mini is On the Way

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Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) component suppliers in Asia have begun mass production of the iPad Mini, the cheaper and smaller version of the company’s tablet meant to compete with new devices from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). LG Display (NYSE:LPL) and AU Optronics (NYSE:AUO) began mass production of LCD screens for the new device last month, The Wall Street Journal said. The iPad Mini will have a 7.85-inch display, though its screen resolution is expected to be lower than the latest iPad model that was launched in March.

Apple is rumored to send out invitations next week to an October 17 event announcing the device.

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The three existing generations of the iPad have a screen measuring 9.7 inches diagonally, a feature that has been unchanged since the tablet was first launched in 2010. However, since then several rival manufacturers have released their own tablets that feature smaller screens and are priced much cheaper, challenging Apple’s dominant hold on the market. In July, Google announced the Nexus 7, a tablet with a seven-inch screen that costs $199. And though Amazon upgraded its Kindle Fire tablet line in August, the entry-level model is still priced at $159, much lower than Apple’s new iPad, which starts at $499.

Daiwa Capital Markets analyst Christine Wang said a smaller tablet could help Apple stay competitive in the rapidly growing market by appealing to those consumers who find the iPad too large or too expensive. “Many people use the iPad to play games and watch videos, but they cannot hold it with one hand,” Wang told The WSJ.

While Apple held a 60 percent share of the global tablet market in 2011, overall sales are expected to grow 85 percent this year to 126.6 million units, giving new entrants space to carve out a bigger niche.

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