Apple unveils smaller iPad, the iPad mini

Apple unveiled a smaller version of its hot-selling iPad on Tuesday, jumping into the market for smaller tablet computers dominated by Amazon, Google, and Samsung.

"This is iPad mini," Apple's senior vice president for marketing Phil Schiller said as he displayed the new iPad at an Apple event in San Jose.

"This isn't just a shrunken down iPad," Schiller said. "It is an entirely new design."

The iPad mini's touchscreen measures 7.9 inches diagonally compared to 9.7 inches on the original iPad.

A 16-gigabyte version of the iPad mini with Wi-Fi connectivity costs $329 dollars while a 16GB model with both Wi-Fi and cellular capability costs $459.

The top-of-the-line 64GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity costs $659. The new Apple tablet also features rear- and front-facing cameras like later versions of the original iPad.

Schiller said customers could begin pre-ordering the iPad mini on October 26 and Wi-Fi versions would begin shipping on November 2 to about three dozen countries in Asia and Europe in addition to the United States.

Schiller said the iPad mini weighs 0.68 pounds, is just 7.2mm thick -- thinner than a pencil -- and comes in both black and white models.

"We told you early this year that you would see some incredible innovation from Apple across the year," said Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who replaced Steve Jobs last year at the head of the California technology company.

"We think we kept our promise and we hope that you agree," Cook said.

Apple also unveiled a fourth generation of the original iPad on Tuesday for the same starting price of $499 for a 16GB model with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Cook said Apple has sold over 100 million iPads in two and a half years.

He also said more than 275,000 applications were now available for the iPad in Apple's App Store and that customers have downloaded a total of more than 35 billion apps.

Apple set the tablet computer market ablaze with the first iPad in early 2010 and stuck with its 9.7-inch screen while rivals introduced lower-price tablets with screens closer to seven inches.

Amazon's seven-inch Kindle Fire proved popular last year, and a new version was launched last month.

Meanwhile, a Google Nexus 7 powered by Android software joined the Samsung Galaxy in the seven-inch tablet market.

The unveiling of the iPad mini comes a little over a month after Apple released the iPhone 5, the latest model of its iconic smartphone, which was greeted with record sales.

The event also comes three days ahead of the release of Microsoft's new Windows-powered Surface tablet and two days before Apple reports quarterly earnings.

Microsoft's Surface has a 10.6-inch screen and starts at $499, challenging the larger-format iPads.

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