Microsoft and Apple are going head-to-head in the battle for shoppers' dollars, releasing competing tablet computers one week apart.

The iPad mini, launched yesterday, has been touted as being a brand new design "as thin as a pencil and as light as a pad of paper".

Apple has historically dominated the tablet market, but other brands' smaller devices, such as Google's Nexus 7, have threatened its hold.

Apple hopes the new mini tablet, on sale here from tomorrow, will give it an edge in the competition.


At the iPad mini launch in California, marketing chief Phil Schiller said: "It's not just a shrunken down iPad, it's an entirely new design."

But Microsoft is also out for a slice of the market - tomorrow in the United States it is launching its own tablet device, the Surface, sporting the new Windows 8 operating system.

It features a magnetic snap-on cover which both protects the screen and seconds as a full function keyboard once opened.

But overseas commentators have said the iPad mini launch will likely overshadow the Surface's, especially as Apple has said where the new tablet will be sold and how much for.

Mark Webster, New Zealand technology commentator and founder of, said it was unlikely the iPad mini and Surface would be in direct competition because the iPad mini seemed to be marketed towards education.

"They're finding that a lot of students, particularly younger students, are using iPads but they're a little bit big and clunky for them."

He said although there might be better and "certainly cheaper" tablets around, it would be hard to get an Apple fan to buy another brand.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has defended the mini tablet's price (from $479 up) after US technology experts slammed it as "steeper than expected" - especially compared with devices such as the Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD tablets.