iPad Mini Goes On Sale Today, Mini Lines Form

PHOTO: Apples iPad Mini starts at $329.
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It might not be a launch on scale with the iPhone 5 or the new iPad, but that might just be appropriate for Apple's small new thing.

Apple's iPad Mini, which was announced at a press event last week, goes on sale today starting at 8:00 a.m local time. In New York City and areas hit by superstorm Sandy, Apple is opening stores at 10:00 a.m. ET in some places.

The tablet starts at $329 and has a smaller 7.9-inch display (the regular iPad has a 9.7-inch screen). It runs the same iOS 6 software and has the full capabilities of the iPad. Today, only the WiFi version goes on sale; the 3G / 4G versions don't go on sale for a few weeks.

A new version of the regular iPad with Retina Display, which was first released in March, goes on sale today, too. The $499 tablet has a faster processor and now has the new Lightning dock connector.

But while most Apple launches kick off with massive lines, fewer people seem to be lining up for the new tablet. Reuters reported that lines were shorter than the iPhone launch in Australia and The Wall Street Journal reports the same in New Zealand.

Obviously, the lines in New York were shorter in the wake of superstorm Sandy. At Apple's iconic Cube store on 5th Avenue, only one person stood in line late Thursday night. By Friday morning, there were many more. Fortune reports that there were over 300 in line by 8:00 a.m. ET. Apple's stores in Soho and on 14th Street will be closed due to power outages in the city.

However, according to Twitter there were substantial lines of enthusiastic fans in China. There were also lines building in Ohio and Irvine, Calif., overnight. At 8:00 a.m. ET, the store on the Upper West Side in New York City had close to 50 people in line. However, when the iPhone launched at that store there were hundreds of people camped out.

Despite the reports of shorter lines, Apple sold out of the initial stock of smaller iPads online, which went on sale last Friday. Currently, the white and black versions aren't shipping in the U.S. for two weeks.

Analysts also say the lack of the lines might not mean much.

Apple's 5th Ave. Store.

"Lines are just one metric of excitement, and I believe the closer we get to the holiday season, sales will pick up," Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said. "The iPad Mini isn't nearly as differentiated as the iPhone or the iPad 4."

Analysts at Piper Jaffray expect Apple to sell one million to 1.5 million iPad Minis in the first weekend, rather than the three million iPads it sold in March in the first weekend. And that's not only because of the other iPad option, but also the competition.

Moorhead did stress that the competition has steepened in this category for Apple as there are strong smaller, $199 tablet options like the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7.

"Android has nearly as solid ecosystem at the 7" level as it leverage phones apps, not full tablet apps. The iPad Mini just doesn't offer the best combination of features at a given price when compared to the Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and Nook Tablet. Apple will sell many for the holidays, but not nearly as many as Google and Amazon."

But, of course, Apple's regular (or now big) $499 iPad is likely to remain the top selling tablet on the market, and that might just be the point.

Check out our first impressions and video of the iPad Mini here.

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