For all the rumors about the iPad Mini that we’ve been furiously subjected to, aren’t you just a tad bit curious to know if there’s an actual demand for it? The price comparison website, PriceGrabber, has taken that curiosity further and surveyed 2,063 online shoppers on the question of public demand for the miniature iPad.

The Raw Numbers

According to the survey, 52% of consumers said they’d be interested in picking up a 7-inch iPad Mini that costs $249 – $300. However, only 22% of the respondents polled own a tablet, 68% are owners of the iPad or iPad2, with another 10% being owners of the Kindle Fire. As for the reasons why they desire an iPad Mini, 64% said the lower price of the tablet as the main draw, while 54% said the smaller size is the main attraction. Buying it as a gift, business productivity, and simply because “they love Apple products” were the other stated reasons.

When asked about attractive features they’d like to see on the iPad Mini, answers were varied. Lower price expectations, 3G connectivity, and a thinner and smaller body were named by 84%, 65%, and 60% of the respondents, respectively.

The Grand Appearance

We’ve talked about the demand side of things, but how soon can we expect to see an iPad Mini on the market? Since Apple is never one to confirm rumors outright and usually likes to keep the lid off its precious offerings until the very last minute, we can only go by rumors. The latest versions seem to suggest that Apple is readying in the neighborhood of 6 million iPad Mini’s for a Q3 release. Analysts also believe the smaller iPad tablet will retail for $249 – $299.

If the rumors are accurate and Apple is really going to release the iPad Mini with its supposedly 7.85-inch screen, the question remains: how will this affect Android tablets? Apple’s iPad now holds a comfortable 68% worldwide share of the tablet market. Is there any room left in the crowded sub 10-inch slate category? From the polls, it’s obvious that people do desire cheap tablets. We can say that a cheaper Apple iPad, though smaller in size, will definitely help maintain Apple’s tablet dominance.

For now, the stars of the 7-inch Android tablet scene seem to be the Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet, both “coincidentally” priced at $200. Feeling the pressure, Samsung has started to understand what setting a low price point can do for a tablet’s demand and has followed suit. They have begun offering more competitively-priced tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 lineup.

Meanwhile, Asus is reportedly working with Google to release the first Google Nexus tablet in the coming months, for an expected price of $250. It’s clear as day that the price trend, in general, is sliding down, accelerated by the popularity of the Kindle Fire. While it’s hard not to argue that price is the main factor that people will take into consideration for their tablet purchase, we can’t discount the importance of the platform’s ecosystem and the preference that people have for a certain platform.

The introduction of a cheaper iPad Mini might not necessarily eat into Android’s market share, but might increase the tablet’s user base as a whole. With the expected arrival of Windows 8 tablets, iPad Mini, a 10-inch Kindle Fire, and a slew of Android tablets in all sorts of sizes and shapes, it’s possible the 106.1 million tablet sales that analysts have forecasted for 2012 will be bested.

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