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Apple will release its new small tablet, more likely to be called the iPad Air than the iPad Mini, on 23 October. Apple is getting in early to take some of the gloss off the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface tablet two days later.

There are enough rumours and leaks and joining the dots that we pretty well know that’s the date, and what the small iPad will look like. It will have a 7.85 inch screen, slightly larger than the Google Nexus, which will be its main competitor, and which has set the bar for smaller tablets ( I have one – it’s fabulous).

It will not have a retina display, to keep the price down. For the same reason it will have a low power processor and an ordinary camera. It will need to be cheap, at around US$299, because it will have to compete against the Nexus and Amazon’s updated Kindle Fire in the US holiday season. And the low end Microsoft Surface.

For that low price it will also be Wi-Fi only – a 4G version will cost much more, and will probably not be announced in the first release so as not to cannibalise sales of the larger iPad. Indeed, many of its features will be somewhat hobbled for that very reason. Apple wants the iPad Mini Air baby tablet Nexus killer to compete against the cheap small tablets, not against its own high margin iPad 2.

It will of course use the new and unpopular Lightning connector, the new Apple “standard”. It will probably be available in 16, 32 and 64 Gbyte models, like its big brother, to give it an edge over the Nexus. Memory is getting cheaper every day, and there’s no reason not to give it a bit of grunt. Google can get away with limited memory on the Nexus because it expects you to store stuff in the Cloud, but Apple still prefers you to download stuff and access it locally.

There’s other rumours – that it will be available in smart colours like the iPod, that it will have a cover with a keyboard like the Microsoft Surface, that it will come with a dancing girl and set of steak knives. People do like speculation.

Tablets are now commodities. Apple is not a commodity player. As with the iPhone 5, it is now playing catchup. Steve Jobs has been dead a year. Apple is already a different company.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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