iPad Mini Release Date: Apple Tries to Restore Swag After iPhone 5 Problems


Apple will try to put its iPhone 5 problems behind on October 17, with the announcement of a smaller version of its popular tablet iPad to be launched around the holidays. 

iPad Mini, the new 7.85-inch tablet, would be available in the U.S. during the year's last quarter as component suppliers to Apple in Asia said they've received orders from the Cupertino company to start manufacturing more than 10 million units. 

The move is said to be inspired by the strong consumer demand for Samsung's 5.3-inch Galaxy Note and Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets among others. Apple currently offers a uniquely sized iPad, 9.7-inches, and given the size of its order the company believes there will be enough demand for the smaller iPad despite the market's stiff competition. 

However, if Apple's declining share of the tablet market is any indication, the move could result risky for the Cupertino company now led by CEO Tim Cook. According to market research firm iSuppli, Apple’s share of the worldwide tablet market was 69.6% in the second quarter, down from nearly 84% in 2010. 

Cook faced criticism on the heels of Apple's launch of iPhone 5 and its operating system iOS 6, which dropped the popular Google Maps and YouTube over the Cupertino company's brawl with Google over its increasingly popular Android device.  

iPhone faithful complained Apple Maps, the company's replacement for Google Maps, displayed numerous glitches and inaccuracies. The failed app even originated the ironic Tumblr blog "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps," as well as a public relations nightmare that ended up driving Cook to publicly apologize and recommend iPhone users to download Google Maps from the web. 

No wonder Cook is eager to put the maps drama behind with what Apple does best: the launch of a new product. However, whether iPad Mini restores Apple's swag or deepens the hole dug by the Cupertino company's unwise decision to drop Google Maps it's going to depend on two fronts: quality and cost. 

iPad Mini has to be flawless, just like Apple products always were under the leadership of the late Steve Jobs. But in addition, and responding to the new realities of a much-saturated market, iPad Mini's price has to be competitive. With Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD selling for $199, and Google's 7-inch Nexus 7 selling for $199, iPad mini would have to be priced under $300 in order to be attractive (especially among younger consumers).