Smaller iPad expected as Apple sets date for new event

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a new iPad in March in San Francisco. The company is expected to unveil a smaller version Oct. 23 in San Jose, Calif.

Apple sent out a media invitation Tuesday to an Oct. 23 event expected to be the introduction of a new, smaller iPad to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7.

The invitation, brightly colored with the top of an Apple logo, simply says, “We’ve got a little more to show you.”

The event will be held in downtown San Jose, Calif., at the historic California Theatre, a departure from recent events, mostly held in San Francisco or at the tech titan’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. Apple last introduced a new product at the California Theatre in 2005, when late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs showed off the company’s video iPod; the iPod U2 Special Edition was also introduced there in 2004.

A smaller and less-expensive iPad would be a logical step by the company to thwart sales of similar tablets by Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Rumors have focused on a screen size of about 7.85 inches diagonally, notably smaller than the standard iPad’s 9.7-inch screen.

Devices of that size are easier to carry in a purse or suit pocket and cost around $200, far more affordable than the latest version of the iPad, which starts at $499. An “iPad Mini” would allow Apple to protect its retail flank, effectively corralling off that lower price point from its rivals.

Analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee told Bloomberg News last week that while “these competitors have a tough enough time competing against the 10-inch iPad,” a smaller less expensive iPad Mini “will make the competition even tougher. It tells you how hard it is to beat Apple. These other companies have to either lose money or break even on these products.”

Several news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and Reuters, reported earlier this month that Apple has already begun production of the device. Other reports have said that Apple will also introduce a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple’s “retina” display, smaller than the current 15-inch model.

Jobs famously denounced a smaller iPad model as late as 2010, when he said “One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70 percent of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. . The reason we won’t make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a lower price point; it’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software.”

But business needs might have trumped Jobs’ thinking.

“Even though we all remember Steve Jobs saying you’d have to file down your fingers to use a seven-inch tablet, it sounds like it’s finally going to happen,” Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf told the Mercury News earlier this month. “But while it’s been proven there’s a market for a smaller iPad, I think it’s the lower price point that Apple’s concerned with.”

Pat May of the San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.