NEW YORK (
) -- As usual, there's intense speculation ahead of
later Tuesday, with great things already expected from the company's rumored
"We believe the 'iPad Mini' has the opportunity to surpass the sale of the iPad in annual shipments over the next few years, while further marginalizing tablet competitors," wrote Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets.
The iPad, which is up against a host of
Android-based tablets from the likes of
, has been a phenomenal success since its launch in early 2010. Apple sold 84 million of the devices through the end of its June quarter this year. iPad sales accounted for 26% of Apple's total revenue during the quarter, with the Cupertino, Calif.-based company selling 17 million iPads, a quarterly record.
The iPad Mini is rumored to have a 7.85-inch screen, compared to the 9.7-inch screen on the company's current iPads. The device is also expected to be lighter than its predecessor, which weighs either 1.44 pounds or 1.66 pounds.
A smaller, lighter, version of the iPad would resonate with consumers, according to Topeka's White, who said that he demoed a prototype of the device during a recent trip to Asia.
We had the opportunity to play with a pilot version of the 'iPad Mini' that easily fit into our sport coat pocket," he wrote. "Experiencing a new form factor of an iconic product such as the iPad is a sight to behold and we believe consumer demand will reflect this phenomenon."
The analyst, a noted Apple bull, expects the iPad Mini screen to be 7.85 inches in size, with the device including two new cameras and offering consumers the option of Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 4G. White also predicted that the device will come with Apple's new lightning connector and start with a storage capacity of 8GB, compared to the current iPad's 16GB.
Pricing, one of the most critical aspects of Tuesday's launch, could start at $250 to $300, he added.
There has been speculation that the iPad Mini could be priced as low as $299 in the United States to make it competitive with other, smaller tablets. Almost a third of respondents to
recent iPad Mini poll, however, predicted that the device will be priced at $349.
White predicted that the device will continue Apple's leader status in the tablet market.
"We believe Apple's dominance in the tablet market (68.2% share according to
in 2Q12) and the iPad's unparalleled ecosystem will provide the company with a significant advantage in the smaller-sized, lower-priced tablet market with the 'iPad Mini', he wrote. "Apple has the deepest portfolio of tablet apps with 250,000 native for the iPad versus an insignificant number in the Android system."
Set against this backdrop, Topeka's White predicted that Apple will sell 5 million to 7 million iPads Minis during the first quarter that the devices become available.
During its third fiscal quarter of 2010, which saw the first shipments of the initial iPad, Apple sold 3.27 million of the devices. This figure rose to 4.2 million iPads in the subsequent quarter.
Apple shares dipped 1.1% to $627.03 on Tuesday.
will be live-blogging the Apple event, starting at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
--Written by James Rogers in New York.
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