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Apple readying iPad Mini to take on Nexus 7; autumn launch likely

As the Google Nexus 7 begins its descent into UK markets – the impressive tablet is due to launch on 19 July – speculation is mounting about how Apple will respond, with the Cupertino-based tech giant reported to be readying a new, smaller and cheaper iPad for an autumn debut.

With Microsoft also having launched its Surface devices recently, Apple is thought to be looking to release a new product sooner rather than later, as it looks to maintain its enviable position atop the tablet market amidst increased competition and predictions that sales will continue to grow.

The new model – potentially dubbed the iPad Mini – will have a 7in touch screen manufactured by Sharp and would likely be included in Apple's blockbuster pre-holiday launch, which is rumoured to be September or October and will also include the latest iPhone.

Apple's entry into the low-cost tablet market could be a serious problem for rival tablet makers who have thus far carved themselves out a niche by offering more affordable products – the Nexus 7, for example, will retail at just £159 when it shortly appears on British shelves.

The latest generation iPad, by contrast, costs £399 from Apple's UK retail store and boasts the now famous high-resolution Retina display, which the company recently rolled out to its MacBook Pro notebook range at the WWDC 2012.

"It would be the competitors' worst nightmare," Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee and Leach said. "The ball is in Apple's court."

Apple's iPad range is currently one of the company's biggest successes, with the firm boasting 61 per cent of the tablet market on the back of a slick OS, dedicated retail network and over 200,000 apps customised for the device.

Though all reports are strictly unofficial at this stage, it seems increasingly likely that this autumn will indeed feature a major Apple product release – or many – with sales of the current generation iPhone slumping recently as speculation continues to mount.