"We couldn't be more thrilled by how quickly the iPad has been embraced by so many users for so many things. But we know we're just getting started," Apple CEO Tim Cook said during a media presentation in San Jose. "We're not taking our foot off the gas."
The introduction of the device marks a 180-degree turnaround from the intent of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who only two years ago said his company was never going to produce a 7-inch tablet.
"This size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size," he famously said during a company conference call in 2010. Jobs died a little more than a year ago due to complications from liver cancer.
Since then, sales of the Kindle Fire have helped force Apple to reevaluate its position in the smaller-tablet market. Amazon has improved its 7-inch tablet to include a high-resolution display and also has introduced a bigger 8.9-inch model of the Kindle Fire that will ship next month.
Apple is not just aiming for that market, however. It also intends to sell the iPad mini as an affordable alternative for the education sector as more schools employ iPads in the classrooms.
The iPad mini was not the only hardware Apple introduced Tuesday. The company also debuted a smaller version of its MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The new 13-inch laptop, like the 15-inch model, includes a high-resolution screen. It's also 3.57 pounds and only three-quarters of an inch thick. Prices will start at $1,699, and the begins shipping today.
Apple also introduced a more svelte version of its iMac desktop computer that is 47 percent thinner than its earlier version (5 millimeters thick at the edge of the screen). Apple also eliminated the optical drive, a move that may be criticized by some who still turn to CDs and DVDs to either install their software or watch movies.
Prices will start at $1,299 for a 21-inch iMac and $1,799 for the 27-inch model. The models begin shipping in November and December, respectively.
Finally, Apple introduced the next generation of its regular-sized iPad. It has a more powerful processor that is two times faster than the third iteration of the tablet (which was introduced only last April). The new iPad will have a smaller Lightning cable connector that was first employed in the iPhone 5. Prices will remain the same, starting at $499.
Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi The iPad mini
What is it • Apple's newest computer tablet is a smaller version of its popular iPad. It sports a 7.9-inch screen and the same screen shape and resolution as the older iPad 2 (1024 by 768 pixels). It will use all of the iPad's existing apps.
How much • From $329 to $629, depending on storage size and whether it's Wi-Fi only or with 4G LTE cellular connectivity. It will be available in 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes of storage.
Availability • Pre-orders begin Friday. Will be available Nov. 2 for the Wi-Fi-only models and two weeks later for models with 4G LTE.
Other features • Includes front- and rear-facing cameras, 10-hour battery life and Apple's new proprietary Lightning cable connection.