CLEVELAND - Apple's next big thing is actually something that is small. The computer giant is trying to increase its stronghold on the tablet market with a mini version of its iPad.
Apple's new baby has a 7.8-inch screen and is priced to compete at $329. It's aimed at cutting into the small tablet market against rivals like Amazon's Kindle Fire, which starts at $159, and Google and Samsung's 7-inch models, at $199.
The iPad is great for watching videos and surfing the web, but not a lot of people use it as an e-reader, though it's great to read a book on.
Twenty-two percent of Americans currently own a tablet, with that number expected to rise to nearly 50 percent in the next few years.
Apple will begin taking orders for the iPad Mini on Oct. 26 and will ship the Wi-Fi-only models on Nov. 2.
The iPad Mini weighs 0.68 pounds, half as much as the full-size iPad, and is as thin as a pencil.
Also Friday, Windows will launch its own tablet challenger, Surface, expected to compete directly with Apple's standard 10-inch iPad at approximately the same price.
In a surprise, Apple also said it's upgrading its full-size iPad tablet just six months after launching a new model, doubling the speed of the processor. Previously, the company has updated the iPad once a year. The fourth-generation iPad will have a better camera and work on more "LTE" wireless data networks around the world.
Apple is also replacing the 30-pin dock connector with the new, smaller "Lightning" connector introduced with the iPhone 5 a month ago.
The price of the new full-size model stays the same as the previous version, starting at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only version with 16 gigabytes of memory.