Apple is expected to rev up its iPad line Tuesday as the tablet market heats up with competition from devices powered by software from Google and Microsoft.
Analysts predict that iPads will star at an invitation-only event being held in San Francisco on the cusp of the prime year-end holiday shopping season.
“Job One for Apple is to get something out there on the large-size iPad that gets people excited, then obviously from a specification focus, the Mini needs to catch up with what everybody else has done,” NPD analyst Stephen Baker told AFP.
“There are a lot of other things happening in that large-size tablet space and there is a huge amount of choices in smaller devices.”
Tablets face mounting competition from touch-screen notebook computers powered by Microsoft Windows software and priced between $350 and $500, according to the analyst.
“Apple will… be number one in large-size tablets probably for a long time, but the definition of competition will change,” Baker said.
Apple is also under pressure to adapt to the popularity of premium tablets with high-quality screens in the seven- to eight-inch (18- to 20-centimeter) range where the Mini competes.
Online retail titan Amazon.com on Friday began shipping new seven-inch Kindle Fire HDX tablets with boosted display quality and computing power at the starting price of $229.
“We can’t wait to get this tablet into our customers’ hands,” said Amazon Kindle vice president Peter Larsen.
Google’s latest Nexus 7 tablet powered by its Android software has been a hot seller at a similarly tempting price.
Emailed invitations to the Apple event revealed little other than the time and place, and bore the message: “We still have a lot to cover.”
A graphic in the shape of an iPad showed Apple’s iconic logo under a shower of colorful leaves.
Unconfirmed reports are that Apple will show off a new version of its full-size iPad that will be thinner than its predecessor and boast improved camera capabilities.
Scrutiny of Apple’s supply chain has industry trackers thinking the new iPad will get “narrower, thinner, and lighter” and possibly be built with processors at least as powerful as those used in the freshly-launched iPhone 5S, according to Gartner analyst Van Baker.
An upgraded version of the iPad mini with an improved screen is also expected.