By Clare Jim and Reiji Murai
TAIPEI/TOKYO, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Apple Inc will beunable to widely roll out a new version of the iPad Mini with ahigh-resolution "retina" display this month, people who work inthe company's supply chain said, leaving the gadget without thesharper screen found on rival tablets from Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
Apple's supply chain is only now gearing up to make retinadisplays for the iPad Mini, which means the gadgets could beavailable in only limited quantities this year, if at all, andthe company may miss the chance to cash in on the year-endholiday shopping season, the sources said.
Cupertino, California-based Apple has come under pressure topreserve market share and bolster sales against rivals that arerapidly raising specifications and lowering prices.
It remains unclear exactly what new features andmodifications could find their way into the next iPad Mini,which the sources said was due to be unveiled this month.
But higher-resolution screens and cameras, as well asthinner and lighter dimensions, are among the improvements usershave come to expect with updated smartphones and tablets.
"If they don't put in retina ... there will be howls," saidFrank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester.
Apple declined to comment about any product launches and thesources at companies in Apple's supply chain declined to beidentified due to the confidentiality of the matter.
Apple defines retina display as resolution that is detailedenough that the human eye can't detect pixelation.
The feature is available on some full-sized iPads, andsimilar resolutions are available on iPad Mini competitors suchas Google's Nexus 7, as well as Amazon's seven-inch Kindle FireHDX due to go on sale this month.
The reason behind the delays in manufacturing the retinadisplay screens for the iPad Mini were unclear. One source at asupplier said there were delays in Apple's certification ofpanel producers, which were given strict power-savingrequirements.
LG Display Co Ltd, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's display unit and Sharp Corp all vied tomanufacture the panels, supply chain sources said.
The three display makers declined to comment.
Given the time required to ramp up screen production, aretina display-equipped iPad Mini would not be available inlarge volumes until early next year, the sources said.
The sources expected Apple to either wait until early nextyear for a full-fledged launch of a retina display iPad Mini, orto make a retina version only available in limited quantitiesbefore the end of the year.
Apple has also told suppliers to reduce costs, two of thesources said, with one person saying the U.S. firm is looking atrolling out an iPad Mini with a smaller 8 gigabytes of memory.
Less memory may allow Apple to lower the price of the Minito boost sales in emerging markets like China where cheapertablets, many of them running Google's Android operating system,are gaining market share.
"Right now the iPad Mini is more expensive than everyoneelse in the 7- to 8-inch tablet segment," said Arthur Liao, ananalyst for Fubon Securities in Taipei. "If it could reduce itsprice by even just $50, it would appeal to more consumers."
The iPad's total market share almost halved to 32.5 percentin the second quarter from a year ago, while Android devices,including Samsung's Galaxy series, gained nearly a quarter to62.6 percent, a survey by tech research company IDC showed.
Amazon's new 7-inch Kindle Fire is priced from $229 for 16GBwifi-only models, while Google's second-generation Nexus 7offers a similar screen size and storage capacity at the sameprice. By comparison, the cheapest model in Apple's current7.9-inch iPad Mini lineup with 16GB storage size starts at $329.
Anyone expecting Apple to dramatically cut prices is likelyto be disappointed, analysts said, pointing to thehigher-than-expected price tag for the iPhone 5C unveiled thismonth.
"Don't expect the prices to be significantly lower," saidone of the sources. "Even though Apple aims to cut down oncomponent costs, it still ends up around the same as the currentMini because the new Mini will have upgraded specifications."
- Technology & Electronics
- Handheld & Connected Devices
- Apple Inc