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Is your B.S. meter functioning properly? Since we’re just days away from the start of 2012, you might want to get it checked in preparation for the wave of new iPad rumors that are likely to start washing up. Today we’ve got an interesting one: Apple is preparing a 7.85-inch version of the iPad for release this year.
The rumor comes from Asian publication DigiTimes, which cites unnamed sources working on the component supply side of iPad manufacturing. According to the rumor, Apple is working on the smaller tablet, tentatively referred to as the “iPad mini,” largely in response to the success of the Kindle Fire 7-inch Android tablet from Amazon.
DigiTimes says the device is going to be released sometime before the fourth quarter of 2012, though it notes that Apple is expected to release its next iPad iteration at the end of the first quarter. The sources say Apple will be buying 7.85-inch screen panels from LG Display and AU Optronics and that they’ll likely start producing those panels at the end of the Q2 2012. So releasing this supposed iPad mini would take place sometime later in the year, it sounds like.
Truth or fiction?
Now, excuse me if this rumor sets off my own B.S. detector, because this one seems a little out of the realm of possibility for me. First off, late former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was on record as saying the 7-inch tablet was too small back when he ran things at the company, and I somehow doubt that minds have been drastically changed in so short a time. The Kindle Fire isn’t doing well because it’s small, it’s doing well because it’s cheap. That’s a wholly different market that Amazon is tapping, and as we’ve discussed here before with the iPhone, Apple is in the business of making premium products. To alter that plan is to devalue its brand. That’s why Apple isn’t out there making cheaper laptops or cheaper iPhones, even though it could make plenty of short-term money doing it. In the long view, Apple wants to keep its high-end market strong.
Another thing to consider is, the reason iOS devices work so well, and the reason Android devices struggle to compete with them in many arenas, is scalability. Developers can make a single app that works with the iPod Touch, the iPhone and the iPad without having to do extra work of making them compatible. All the devices have basically the same features and screen resolutions but at different, scalable sizes, and they all control the same way. This convenience means that the iPad has hundreds of thousands of apps, while developers have to struggle to make their apps compatible with as many Android devices as possible.
Potential for fragmentation
So Apple would have to make sure that the resolutions of any new device is in sync with its other devices, in order to maintain that software convenience and avoid “fracturing” among its devices. GigaOM reports that rumors had Apple testing 7.85-inch screens back in October, which reportedly had compatible resolutions with its existing devices. If that’s the case, an iPad mini might work, however, if the resolution is incompatible, that’d probably be the necessary nail in the iPad mini coffin.
Even with a compatible screen size, the iPad has a very good thing going in the 10-inch market, and the Kindle Fire isn’t really competing with the iPad at all at its size and price. It’s possible Apple is thinking about expanding the iPad, but from my viewpoint, it’s unlikely that the company would have its head so thoroughly turned by one decently successful Android tablet. I’ve been wrong before, though – then again, so has DigiTimes.