(By Rich Bieglmeier) "We have a little more to show you" is how Apple Inc. (AAPL) teased its October 23, 2012, event invitation. It is widely speculated that Apple will use the occasion to unveil the iPad mini. We'll know for sure – wink, wink – next Tuesday at 10 a.m., PST.
The smaller iPad is intended to compete with the likes of lower-priced tablets such as Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook, and Google's (GOOG) Nexus.
iStock loves new-product introductions (based on readership, you like them, too). It gives us the opportunity to run some keywords through Google Trends to see the online buzz. In this case, we typed in iPad mini, Nook, Kindle, and Google Nexus and pressed enter to see how much virtual, finger traffic is walking onto the showroom floor.
So far, it's been an effective way to translate web searches into cash-register realities. iStock was, perhaps, the most accurate iPhone 5 forecaster using this methodology. We predicted 5.1 million phones for the opening weekend plus pre-orders. Apple announced a little more than 5 million. It felt like the rest of the world was at 6-7 million.
OK, the shoulder hurts from back patting.
So, how do they stack up? First off, iPad's – not mini – search intensity is double that of Kindle's, which is the leading query among low-priced tablets and on par with Samsung's Galaxy Note. Before next week's announcement, search volume for iPad mini is running at nearly half the rate of Kindle; however, the trend is rising for Apple's Mini-Me.
With history as our guide, iStock believes that iPad mini queries are likely to catch Kindle searches following the "official" announcement next week. All the PR, news articles, TV talk, ads, online chatter… will build the hype machine and online curiosity peaks in the days surrounding rollout events.
While we do expect a falloff following Tim Cook's presentation, when the new tablet hit the shelves, iStock forecasts that iPad mini will rival Kindle in terms of search queries and sales right out of the gate. Trying to get a grip on exactly how many Kindles are sold is as secret as the nuke launch codes. Amazon refuses to make actual numbers available. In fact, we controlled-F'd Kindle and Fire in the latest 10Q's management discussion and analysis. Take a guess how many times either word was used? ZERO!
The best we can tell, the consensus seems to float around 7 million Kindles per quarter, which fits nicely with our first iPad versus Kindle observation. In the latest quarter, APPL reported 17 million iPad's sold. With that in mind, iStock projects that consumers will purchase at least 7 million iPad minis within the first three months of availability. Remember, you read it here FISRT!
We also believe iPad-m will take the #1 slot in the lower-priced tablet market, almost instantly. Its gains will come at the expense of the Kindle and NOOK, which we think is cooked. At the same time, Google's Nexus is at the bottom of the pack, garnering less interest than the NOOK. Both are trending lower and have roughly one-fourth the online interest that Kindle currently enjoys, and iPad mini is soon to have, in our view.