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Apple thinks smaller with iPad Mini

week in review Apple’s 7.9-inch tablet debuts, along with Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Surface. Also: Earnings season brings mixed results.

Confirming one of its worst-kept secrets, Apple took the wraps off the iPad Mini during a press event on Tuesday.

The new device, a 7.9-inch version of its 10-inch iPad tablet, comes in six pricing configurations. In addition to the 16GB tabletwith Wi-Fi at $329, the 32GB tablet with Wi-Fi is $429, and the 64BG version is $529. For devices with Wi-Fi and 4G cellular connections, the 16GB tablet is $459, the 32GB is $559, and the 64GB is $659. These devices are shipping two weeks after their Wi-Fi-only counterparts.

The iPad Mini could prove to dramatically expand the base of customers for Apple, giving the company a new area of growth at a time when its highly profitable iPhone, as well as its MacBook and iMac lines, are reaching maturity. The iPad Mini, which will sell at a 34 percent discount to its larger cousin, simultaneously puts the rest of the competition, including Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Google’s Nexus 7, on notice.

Also at Tuesday’s event, Apple introduced a new iMac, a MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display, and, perhaps its biggest surprise — a fourth-generation iPad, just half a year after introducing its third-generation “new iPad.”

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