iPad Mini Draws Strong Consumer Interest

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More than half (52 percent) of consumers would consider purchasing a hypothetical iPad "Mini" this year if it were priced between $249 and $300, according to a survey released Friday by online comparison shopping site PriceGrabber.com.

Of the more than 2600 consumers participating in the survey, only 22 percent already own a tablet.

From the survey results, the greatest attraction of an iPad Mini would be price, something Apple showed some sensitivity to when it decided to keep the iPad 2 in the market at $399 when it introduced the third generation iPad earlier this year. That move was seen by some as a concession to the market's desire for lower priced tablets as evidenced by the runaway sales of Amazon's Kindle Fire slate during the holiday season.

When asked about their reasons for buying an iPad Mini, almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the consumers cite a lower price point compared to the new iPad or iPad 2. What's more, when the consumers in the survey were asked what features they'd like to see in an iPad Mini, their top choice is a lower price (84 percent).

Size, though, also seems to be important. More than half (54 percent) acknowledge that size matters to them and feel a smaller iPad would be more portable. On the "wish list" question, though, size (60 percent) trailed 3G connectivity (65 percent) as a desired feature.

Consumers in the survey also show enthusiasm for giving an iPad Mini as a gift, with one in two (51 percent) saying they'd consider buying a pint-sized iPad as a present for the upcoming holiday season.

Despite Apple's protestations that it's not working on an iPad with a smaller screen -- seven or eight inches or so -- the "mini" rumor is one that refuses to die. Floggers of the idea can't see how Apple can resist the market pressure for a cheaper tablet, especially in light of the success of the Kindle Fire.

That success, though, was fleeting, as recent market numbers show. For example, IDC reports Amazon tablet shipments shriveled from 16.8 percent in last year's holiday quarter to 4 percent in the quarter ending in March. Those declines coupled with the expected arrival later this year of 10-inch tablets based on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and selling for $250 or less may put iPad Mini speculation to bed for good.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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