Apple iPad mini makes low key debut


TOKYO: The iPad mini got off to a low-key start Friday with little of the hype-fuelled razzmatazz of earlier Apple launches, as analysts said the costly creation may have come too late to the 7-inch market.

Around 300 people queued up outside Apple’s flagship store in Tokyo, some wearing fancy dress, to get their hands on a device the company insists is more than just a shrunken version of its popular tablet.    

At least 20 people spent the night outside the shop in the upmarket Ginza area, but the launch was missing some of the pizzazz of earlier offerings, with  the queue quickly dissipating after an initial rush.    
 
In tech-mad Singapore numbers were well down on previous launches, while in  Hong Kong around 30 people queued to pick up their pre-ordered devices before  the Apple store opened.    
 
Hundreds had lined up for the iPad 2 last year and 1,500 who camped out for  the iPhone 4S. It was a similar story in Sydney where the days-long queues for a new  generation iPhone 5 were not repeated.  
 
“Looks like most ordered it online,” one person in the small queue told  reporters.  Nevertheless, acolytes declared themselves impressed by the physical charms  of the 7.9 inch (20-centimetre) touchscreen device. “It’s completely different (from the regular iPad),” said Ayano in Tokyo,  who did not give her surname.    
 
“It is thinner and very light. Look, you can hold it in one hand.” Around three dozen markets in Asia and Europe, as well as the United  States, were due to see launches of the Wi-Fi only version on Friday.  
 
 In Seoul a 200-strong queue, some of whom had camped out overnight, had their patience rewarded from 8am, with one man telling AFP Apple was a better buy for his 4-year-old daughter. “I prefer iPad to Android devices because it has more content for children like my daughter,” he said. Die-hard fans noted there was less of a fanfare this time around.    
 
“It’s not surprising people wait for hours to be the first to get new Apple  devices, but now the hype doesn’t seem to be as big as before,” said Kim  Tae-Min.    
 
Ahead of the launch analysts had warned the starting price of 329 might seem steep to budget-minded shoppers who can buy Google Nexus or Amazon Kindle  tablets for 199. “Devotion to Apple products has been compared to a religion,” said an  analyst from the US-based firm Gartner.    
 
“But, I don’t think Apple will be as dominant in the seven-inch tablet  space because they let the Kindle Fire and the Nexus get a foothold in the  market at a considerably lower price.”    
 
However Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu downplayed concerns about the iPad mini  price, reasoning that the high-quality tablet will bite into sales of  Windows-powered personal computers and Microsoft’s new Surface tablets.    
 
“This controversy reminds us of what happened with iPod mini and iPod  nano,” Wu said in a note to investors. “Both predecessors were criticised as being overpriced but went on to do  much better than expected.”    
 
Apple’s senior vice president for marketing Phil Schiller helped unveil the  iPad mini last week, saying that it was an entirely new design and not “just a  shrunken down iPad”.    
 
Schiller said the iPad mini weighs 308 grams (0.68 pounds), less than half  the original, and is 7.2 mm (less than a third of an inch) thick. Like later versions of the original iPad, the new Apple tablet also  features rear- and front-facing cameras. It also has stereo speakers.    
 
The launch came after British judges told Apple it had to re-write an “inaccurate” statement relating to its patent dispute with South Korean rival  Samsung.    
 
The company was told last month to post a message on its website saying  Samsung’s Galaxy tablet computers had not infringed iPad designs. But Samsung complained that the message did not comply with the court order  because it included comments on other rulings in Germany and the United States  which had favoured Apple. -- AFP

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