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Apple unveils iPad mini in hopes of trumping lower-priced rivals

SAN JOSE, California -- Apple introduced the iPad mini on Tuesday, confident that a smaller version of its beloved tablet computer will trump lower-priced offerings by rivals Amazon, Google and Samsung.

“This is iPad mini,” Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller said as he displayed the new gadget at a company event in San Jose.

“This isn't just a shrunken down iPad,” Schiller said. “It is an entirely new design.”

Chief Executive Tim Cook coolly presided over the launch of what was considered his first Apple product not bearing the thumbprint of late co-founder Steve Jobs, who derided small tablets as “DOA.”

Jobs publicly declared 7-inch tablets being fielded against iPad would be dead-on-arrival; that was unless they included sandpaper, “so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size.”

Industry analysts noted that given his oft clever tactics, the derision could have been a ruse by Jobs to discourage competitors while Apple had a smaller version of the iPad on the drawing board.

The iPad mini's touch screen measures 7.9 inches (20 centimeters) diagonally compared to 9.7 inches on the original iPad.

A 16-gigabyte version of the iPad mini with Wi-Fi connectivity costs US$329, while a 16GB model with both Wi-Fi and cellular capability costs US$459.

The top-of-the-line 64GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity will sell for US$659. Like later versions of the original iPad, the new Apple tablet also features rear- and front-facing cameras.

“That is very cool,” Cook said of the iPad mini.

People can begin pre-ordering the iPad mini on Oct. 26 and Wi-Fi versions were set to begin shipping on Nov. 2 to about three dozen countries in Asia and Europe in addition to the United States.

Schiller said the iPad mini weighs 0.68 pounds, less than half the original, and is 7.2mm thick — thinner than a pencil.

Apple also unveiled a fourth generation of the original iPad for the same starting price of US$499 for a 16GB model with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Cook said Apple sold over 100 million iPads in two and a half years.

He added that more than 275,000 applications were now available for the iPad in Apple's App Store and that customers have downloaded a total of more than 35 billion apps.

Apple shares ended the formal trading day down 3.26 percent to US$615.25 but regained ground in after-market trades.

Cook also introduced slick upgrades to Apple's line of Macintosh computers, sales of which have outpaced the overall personal computer market for six years running.

Apple slimmed down its top-selling model, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and gave it a “retina display” that boasts richer images than those on high-definition television sets. Starting price for the new MacBook Pro model was US$1,699.

A new model iMac with the computing hardware built into its slim monitor promised to complement smartphones or tablets in modern lifestyles.

The new iMacs started at US$1,299 with the first models available in November.

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An iPad mini is shown in San Jose, California, Tuesday, Oct. 23. The device has a screen that's about two-thirds the size of the full-size model, and Apple says it will cost US$329 and up. (AP)

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