• Kyodo

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The Apple iPad mini, a smaller version of the popular iPad tablet computer, hit stores in Japan and other leading markets Friday as competition heats up ahead of the yearend shopping spree.

While cumulative global sales of tablet computers are expected to top 100 million units by year’s end, Apple will try to solidify its dominant position in the burgeoning market with the iPad mini, with Kindle Fire by Amazon.com Inc., to be sold in Japan in December, and Nexus 7 by Google Inc. seen as its top rivals.

In the Japanese tablet market, Apple had a 57 percent share as of September, followed by Sony Corp.’s 10 percent, according to market research firm BCN Inc. The release of tablet computers carrying Microsoft Corp.’s recently launched Windows 8 operating software could further fuel competition.

“I only buy Apple products. They always entertain users and bring pleasant surprises,” said Takuya Sano, a 19-year-old student from Saitama Prefecture, who joined the line at Apple’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district Thursday evening that eventually expanded to around 300 people by the time the shop opened at 8 a.m.

“The mini is much handier to carry around compared with the iPad, it looks nice and I like the fact that Apple products have a broad range of applications already installed,” said Hiromi Yuzuki, 33.

Touted for its greater portability, the iPad mini weighs only about half of its full-size cousin at 308 grams and is 20 percent slimmer at 7.2 mm thick.

Available in black or white, it features a 7.9-inch display, slightly bigger than the two rival brands’ 7-inch screens.

The suggested retail price for the iPad mini with 16 gigabytes of storage and Wi-Fi capability starts at ¥28,800.

The retail price is higher than the Amazon and Google tablets. The Kindle Fire goes for ¥15,800 while the Nexus 7 costs ¥19,800.

The iPad mini with cellular connectivity, accommodating Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed internet services, is scheduled to be released in Japan in late November by Softbank Corp. and KDDI Corp.

The model with cellular connectivity will be available from ¥39,800.

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