It’s a big week for gadget news. Apple is expected to announce a smaller version of the iPad on Tuesday, while Microsoft finalizes details for the long-awaited launch Friday of its Surface tablet and new Windows 8 operating system.
Both companies are fighting against the number 68 — the percent of the market Apple currently holds with its iPad tablet across the globe, according to IDC.
For Microsoft, that number reflects how hard the company must work to make a sizable dent in the iPad’s dominance in what the Consumers Electronics Association estimates is an $29 billion global tablets market. For Apple, it reflects the fight to stay on top. It used to account for 80 percent of the tablet market in 2010.
Apple’s expected jump into the mini-tablet space could help the company take on its most dangerous competitors by extending its appeal to consumers who want a more portable device.
Amazon and its Kindle Fire have mounted the most credible threat against the iPad, while others such as Google and Barnes & Noble have matched the Fire’s costs to stay competitive at the $200 price point.
Now Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both planning their own, larger tablets that take on the iPad directly. Microsoft has its Surface, and rumor has it that Google has a 10-inch tablet up its sleeve for an event on Oct. 29.
So Apple has decided to play “hardball,” as Computerworld called it, by scheduling an event ahead of Microsoft’s Friday launch — a date Microsoft announced in June. Consumers may hope that Apple will be playing to win on pricing as well, and that the reports that Apple’s smaller tablet will have a price tag under $300 are true.
Analysts expect that if Apple launches an “iPad mini” at that price, it will have another unqualified hit on its hands based, Fortune reported, on how easy it is to slide another device into Apple’s iPhone/iPad/Mac/iPod ecosystem. Android devices still suffer from fragmentation, the report noted, and tablets running Microsoft’s Windows RT system will require some work to integrate with existing products.