Is Apple’s iPad Mini a Big Disappointment?

On Tuesday, Apple proved the rumor mill correct when it formally rolled out the red carpet for the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated answer to the smaler Android-based tablets that have eaten into some of Apple’s dominant tablet market share.

This morning at the California Theatre in San Jose, California, Apple debuted the iPad Mini – a smaller version of the Cupertino tech titan’s iPad tablet that delivers a 7.9″ display on its pencil-thin frame.

Clearly representing Apple’s desire to break through in emerging markets where tablet computers are still largely too expensive to gain the critical mass that we’ve seen in the U.S., Apple is banking on the iPad mini to become a dominant force in China and around the world.

But the iPad mini starts at $329, which is more expensive than anticipated for the introductory level Wi-Fi 16 GB model. The cellular version of the iPad mini is even more expensive at $459.

The biggest demand for non-Apple tablets has been for less expensive 7-inch devices such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Google’s Nexus 7 and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. A smaller iPad would challenge these competitors head on, combining their popular size with Apple’s killer features: the iOS operating system, Apple’s app and media ecosystem, and quality design.

So who who will be the biggest buyer of the iPad mini domestically? Tablets, one analyst says, belong to homebodies in their living rooms and bedrooms.

“Fully half the time they’re using tablets, they don’t leave the couch or the bed,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps tells CNN. “If you can do everything on the smaller iPad you can on the larger iPad — that plus the added convenience of being able to take it with you more places could take the wind out of the sales of Amazon.”

The iPad mini comes with an A5 chip, FaceTime HD camera, 5-megapixel iSight camera, LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi. The iPad mini is available in black and white and sports a Lightning connector. Apple says the miniature iPad is capable of matching the impressive 10-hour battery life of the 4th generation iPad.

But at such exalted prices in return for a smaller device that doesn’t dramatically improve upon the features of the regular sized iPad, some fear the iPad mini will ultimately prove a big disappointment.

Are you planning to buy an iPad mini? Please weigh in with a thought or comment below.