Apple firing back at Kindle Fire?

Analyst says Apple is planning a lower-priced version of iPad for budget shoppers

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Since the debut of the iPad in April 2010, no other tablet computer has emerged as a credible rival to the wildly popular, starting-at-$499 Apple device.

Until recently, that is. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...the HP TouchPad.

Kidding! I'm talking about the Kindle Fire, Amazon.com's $199 tablet introduced late last month.

By placing its product in a far lower price range and offering access to plenty of digital entertainment through streaming deals with Hollywood production companies, Amazon.com immediately established the Kindle Fire as the most serious contender yet for the iPad, which now owns 80% of the tablet market.

(Also see: iPad, meet your first serious competition)

This apparently has not gone unnoticed over at Apple, if a rumor reported Thursday is true. TechSpot on Thursday quoted a note to investors by Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White:

"Our research is pointing to the unveiling of a lower priced iPad in the first few months of 2012 that is aimed at expanding the company's market potential by tapping into a more price sensitive consumer segment."

White went on to suggest that "this lower priced iPad could be priced in the mid-to-high-$200 range," TechSpot reports.

There is a big gap between the $199 Kindle Fire and the lowest-priced iPad at $499, so a "mini" iPad might be attractive to a buyer (especially gift shoppers) willing to spend a little more to get an iPad.

Generally, though, Apple isn't known for competing on price, so in that regard the rumored move would be uncharacteristic. But 250,000 pre-orders for Kindle Fire -- and remember, this is before word of mouth can begin following the Nov. 15 launch -- are hard to ignore.

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