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At $249, the iPad Mini would be hard to stop, says analyst

An inexpensive iPad Mini could reset the 7-inch-class tablet market, an analyst tells CNET.

iPad Mini mockup (front).
iPad Mini mockup (front).

Will Apple lowball the iPad Mini? That's a crucial question for competitors staring down the barrel of a smaller Apple tablet, an analyst told CNET.

The answer comes down to whether Apple wants to "crush the opposition" or just maintain dominance, said Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at IHS iSuppli. "And the price point would be how they do that," she said.

While a $299 price tag "would sit in a more comfortable place as far as a profit," Alexander believes Apple could go as low as $249 for an entry level model.

At the high end, $349 is price Alexander often hears. That model would come with 4G LTE.

And it's probably not a stretch to say that Google is already anticipating the imminent arrival of the iPad Mini in the U.S. Ads for the $199 Nexus 7 tablet are everywhere these days, including Google's usually-pristine search page.

It's a smart strategy: drive more sales of an already popular product before the iPad Mini tsunami hits.

"The input I'm getting from the supply side is that [Google] has actually raised the quantity of orders being built this year," Alexander said. "We see it on the order of five to six million in 2012 or maybe even a little more than six million."

That said, the Wi-Fi-only Nexus 7 is a tougher sell on international markets, particularly Asia, where 3G is necessary, according to Alexander. In contrast, a smaller, cheaper iPad with 3G/4G capability in Asia would be an extremely attractive product, she said.

Google is getting aggressive with advertising.  A preemptive strike against the iPad Mini?
Google is getting aggressive with advertising. A preemptive strike against the iPad Mini? Google