The iPad Mini is shown in San Jose, California. (AP Photo)
It is shaping up to be a busy year for tablet launches with big announcements expected from Apple, Samsung, Sony and, of course, Microsoft.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Microsoft insists that it is still on track to officially launch its Surface Pro range of tablets but is yet to confirm exactly when that will be. In-the-know sources suggest it could be as soon as the end of January. What is known is that it will retail for $899 for 64GB of storage, or $999 for a 128GB configuration. The Surface Pro could prove to be a huge hit with consumers for its ‘no compromise' approach. It is attempting to be both a full computer and a tablet, and early reviews and feedback suggest that Microsoft has succeeded. If it catches on as well as the company hopes, it will lead to a new product sector and therefore a lot of imitators.
Microsoft Surface Pro to start at $899
Samsung is also looking to cause a little disruption in the tablet market with the launch of an 8-inch Galaxy Note tablet. An opportunity to compete directly with the iPad Mini in terms of price and performance, the tablet is expected to cost less than $300 and will run Android 4.2 out of the box. Further details are yet to be confirmed but it is expected to make its official debut at the World Mobile Congress (WMC) in Barcelona in February.
Why should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Note?
Sony is preparing to launch a new flagship Xperia Z tablet to market alongside its new flagship Xperia Z smartphone. Expected to launch in Japan on January 22, the tablet will make its official European debut at the WMC. A leaked specification sheet shows that the tablet will have a full HD 10.1-inch display, a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.
What isn't yet clear is if it will be as water-resistant as its smartphone namesake. The Xperia Z phone can be dropped in a bathtub and survive. Last year, Sony's Xperia S tablets -- which were marketed as being water-resistant -- were withdrawn from sale following the discovery of a manufacturing fault that allowed water to enter the device.
Meanwhile rumors continue to circulate that the next iPad Mini could be in the stores as early as June and this time will feature a full HD display. It will be joined by a new lighter, thinner and very slightly smaller full-size iPad featuring a reduced bezel to cut down the tablet's size without reducing its 9.7-inch display.
Most US tablet shoppers considering an iPad