Mass Production Begins on Apple’s (AAPL) Mini iPad

Mass production of a smaller, lighter, and less expensive version of Apple ‘s iPad, also known as iPad Mini, is currently underway, a  Wall Street Journal report said Wednesday citing executives at companies that make components for the devices.

LG Display and AU Optronics, two leading LCD panel manufacturers based in Asia, have already begun manufacturing the LCD screens for the tech giant’s smaller tablet, which according to the Journal’s sources will feature a 7.85-inch liquid-crystal display with a lower [1024*768] resolution than the latest iPad.

Apple (AAPL) has kept the screen size of its wildly popular iPad, which held roughly 60% of the global tablet market last year, unchanged at 9.7 inches since the market-beating product was released in January 2010.

The launch of the new iPad version is seen as Apple’s move to corner the market while staying competitive against rivals such as Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN), which have already introduced 7-inch tablets at $199 and $159, respectively. The cheapest iPad starts from nearly $400.

Analysts said a smaller and cheaper tablet could help Apple stay competitive.

Christine Wang, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets in Taipei, was quoted as saying to the Journal that “she expected a smaller Apple tablet would carry a lower price than the current iPad and appeal to consumers who find the iPad too heavy or too expensive.”

“Many people use the iPad to play games and watch videos, but they cannot hold it with one hand,” Ms. Wang said.

It is expected that Apple will formally introduce iPad later this month.

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