Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
- iPad Mini expected this week
- Apple to refresh computer lineup
- Some consumers think existing iPad too big
LOS ANGELES - An expected unveiling of new Macintosh computers on Tuesday will likely be overshadowed by the launch of a cheaper, smaller iPad from Apple.
New models of the iMac desktop machine, MacBook laptops and the Mac Mini component computer are likely, predicts Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu.
"There hasn't been a refresh in over a year," he says. Wu expects the new computers to have faster processors and stronger graphics.
But as the worldwide shift to mobile devices quickens, it is the rumored iPad Mini that has captured most of the buzz surrounding Tuesday's new product preview in San Jose.
Wu expects the new compact iPad to have a 7-inch screen (down from 9.8 inches for the big iPad) and sell for $299 to $349.
"The big surprise would be if it comes in at the lower end," says Wu. "That's the wild card."
Apple has a commanding 68% market share of the tablet market with its iPad, which launched in March 2010, according to industry researcher IDC. The iPad now accounts for 25% of Apple's overall sales.
However, companies such as Google and Amazon have started creeping into Apple's sales with lower-priced and small tablets.
The full-featured Kindle Fire and Google Nexus tablets start at $199. Friday, Microsoft's answer to the iPad, the Surface, goes on sale worldwide, but it, too, has a 10-inch screen and will start at $499.
Apple's shift to a smaller iPad "is to drive growth," says Wu. "It's what investors really wanted to see; they wanted to see Apple go for the kill."
Wu believes the lower price of the new Mini will appeal to a broader market.
"The first tablet buys have been early adopters," he says. "So this is a natural progression."
Are consumers excited about the new smaller iPad? USA TODAY asked a group of shoppers near an Apple Store in Los Angeles for their opinions:
"It would be easier to carry around," said Stephanie Temple of Los Angeles.
Marisa Paruch, a tourist from Michigan, said she was happy with her iPad 2. A shrunken version "would be too small."
Jason Flint of Los Angeles said his 7-year-old daughter already has put in her Christmas request for the small iPad. "She's smaller than us, so everything has to be smaller."
Chris Kent, a tourist from England, said a smaller iPad makes a lot of sense to him. The iPad "is too big. I see people taking pictures on it. It's like taking pictures with a telly." If the new one is smaller, he "definitely" wants one.