Apple's new 7.9-in. iPad mini will be a huge hit with business users as well as consumers, several industry analysts predicted Tuesday.
It starts with the $329 price tag for a Wi-Fi-only 16 GB version, making it affordable to workers in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) world, analysts said.
The new iPad Mini can also run all the apps written for the iPad 2 in the same resolution (1024 x 768 pixels). And, analysts noted, the new Apple device is lightweight (.68 pounds), thin (7.2 mm) and can be held in one hand.
Another reason, perhaps the most important one -- many IT shops already allow workers to use iPads for work-related tasks. Therefore, a low-cost, smaller version of the the iPad that can run existing apps doesn't present a threat.
Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said the thin and light iPad mini "will be a huge hit" in the workplace. "The price is a very big deal."
He said the smaller, lighter iPad "opens lots of new business uses, especially with women."
Smaller tablets in the 7-in. form factor -- including those from Amazon and Barnes and Noble -- have been popular among women, analysts noted. Women can easily store that size device in a purse, while men can insert one in a large pocket.
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, also said he expects that the iPad Mini will be popular among workers. "Many workers will prefer the smaller size, and companies will appreciate the smaller price," he said.
Since the apps for the device are compatible with the current 9.7-in. iPad, "companies can provide a choice to end users -- and end users like choice."
The various laptop sizes used by workers is an indication of how they will like having a choice of tablet sizes, Gold said.
Gold said Apple already "has a big head start in the enterprise" due to the popularity of the larger iPad, which will make it hard for Android or Windows tablet makers to catch up.
Apple CEO Tim Cook Tuesday noted that Apple has sold some 100 million iPads in 2.5 years, and that than 90% of all Web browsing on tablets is done on its devices.
"Apple currently dominates the tablet market, so if it wasn't hard enough for competitors, it will now get even harder. Many customers won't mind paying a $130 premium over [the$199 tablets] to get a mini iPad," said Julien Blin, an analyst at Infonetics.
Blin predicted that Apple will sell the iPad mini for just $200 by fall of 2013.
Several analysts noted that Research in Motion used a 7-in. screen in its PlayBook tablet, which was targeted mostly at business users. That device hasn't been successful, though analysts blame a lack of apps rather than the smaller size -- which some users considered ideal.
Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst, said that while the iPad Mini isn't viewed as a strong productivity device for workers, it will be a strong companion to users of Apple's MacBook or MacBook Air laptops.
"The smaller iPad will be a good companion to the Air or even those users that might have a Windows tablet issued by their organization," she added.
Microsoft is launching Windows 8 on Thursday in New York along with the 10.6-in. Surface RT tablet.
Mobile device management vendors also expect the iPad Mini to do well in the workplace.
Srinivas Krishnamurti, VMware's senior director of mobile solutions, called the iPad Mini "another major milestone in the ongoing trend of users moving from PCs to tablets. VMware expects it will accelerate the adoption of tablets among organizations of all sizes due to its lower price point, especially small and medium businesses."
VMware introduced a Horizon Suite Alpha in August that offers a mobile client to access apps, data and desktops from one place while giving IT a separate single management console to manage mobile device policies and security.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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