Report: Apple’s $329 iPad mini is an ‘absolute home run’

Analysts are fawning over Apple’s new iPad mini, one describing the smaller tablet as “an absolute home run.” Although investors concerned over the $329 price tag briefly sent shares of the Cupertino, Calif. firm down, Wall Street dismissed the worries.

“Due to the high quality of the hardware, we expect the device will be very well received by consumers once they have an opportunity to test it,” Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore said.

Although Whitmore described the iPad mini as “a modest disappointment,” he said the new iPad includes features “richer than we anticipated.”

Continuing that theme, analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company said that while the mini’s $329 “left a modest price umbrella for competing 7-inch tablets, none compare with this device,” noting all iPad apps could run unchanged on the new tablet.

Shaw Wu, who maintains the iPad mini “is the competition’s worst nightmare,” Wednesday told investors some consumers who were considering the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD “may consider [the] iPad mini instead.”

Several Wall Street voices consider the iPad mini as ensuring Apple continues to lead the overall tablet market.

“The refreshed iPad portfolio cements Apple’s competitive positioning, and we increasingly see the company sustaining a 60% share,” writes Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha.

High-profile Apple-watcher Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray told investors price is the iPad’s headline feature. Price “is how Apple furthers markets in which it is dominant, using the iPod as a historical precedent.”

But all of Wall Street was not joining the iPad mini love-fest.

“The best is over for Apple,” according to Trip Chowdhry, analyst with Global Equities. The “iPad mini is playing catch up to Google Android, probably will have a mediocre customer adoption,” he believes.

In the case of the iPod, when Apple unveiled the iPod mini in 2004, total iPod sales rose 469 percent compared to the previous year’s 214 percent growth, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty.

“In other words, Apple has experience extending a product line to a smaller, cheaper form factor,” she said.

Price has never been the deciding factor for Apple fans. Unlike commodity products, such as Amazon’s Kindle or Google’s $199 Nexus 7 tablet, which are known for their low-cost offerings, Apple devices rise or fall on engineering and styling. In the case of the iPad mini, unveiling a tablet that costs less than previous Apple tablets will likely only expand the company’s leading position.

The iPad mini’s price should not be as worrisome as other concerns, such as getting enough of the tablets off assembly lines to meet the already-expected huge demand.