A new report today from DigiTimes who claims that Apple will launch a 7.85-inch tablet sometime before Q4 2012. The iPad 3 is expected sometime in the spring and will introduce a retina quality display on the iPad. Apple could release the new, smaller iPad later in the year, perhaps timed with the upcoming iPhone releases.
The release of a 7-inch model would allow for a lower-cost entry tablet. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both released smaller, inexpensive tablets, primarily to stir up interest in selling eBooks. The tablets run a fork of Google’s Android operating system. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has its own App Store and does not provide access to the Google Play Store. Both have a shortage of tablet friendly apps. Samsung has been following their phone strategy, which is to make devices in an assortment of sizes and see what sticks. It has been working for them in smartphones.
With the 16GB iPad 2 priced at $499, the current cost is prohibitive for some prospective customers. Offering a lower-cost device could see an even greater adoption rate of iOS. The late Steve Jobs had been critical of 7-inch and smaller tablets, suggesting they should come with sandpaper, so users can file down their fingers. Jobs called them “dead on arrival”.
Today’s rumor is interesting, because it suggests a slightly larger product than the current crop of 7-inch displays. The current iPad features a 9.7-inch display, so this would still be a much smaller device.
Rumors emanating from DigiTimes have been a mixed bag, but this one certainly sounds feasible, given the increased competition. Apple isn’t going to lower the price on their flagship iPad line. Creating a smaller iPad, it will naturally be less expensive. It’s hard to see Apple coming close to the sub-$200 pricing of competing tablets. Maybe they don’t have to, given the superior selection of apps in the App Store.
If Apple did come out with a smaller iPad, would that have a greater appeal to say an iPad 3 with retina? We’ll find out and maybe as soon as the end of 2012.