Rumors this week point toward Apple releasing yet another new iPad, despite the 3rd generation iPad (unofficially called the iPad 3) having come out less than a month ago.
The new iPad could be called the iPad Mini, and it could sport a 7.85-inch screen and a 1024 x 768 display (like the iPad 1 and iPad 2). In comparison, the iPads currently available have 9.7-inch screens, and the iPad 3's retina display is a higher (2048 x 1536) resolution.
A published report out of China added yet more fuel to the rumors of the new iPad Mini. The site claims that manufacturers Foxconn and Pegatron both started receiving orders from Apple for the smaller iPad.
If the report can be believed, the factories will have 6 million iPad Mini units ready to go by Q3 of this year. That means that technophiles and Apple-heads could relax on the beach with a new iPad as soon as early- or mid-summer.
This iPad Mini release date is perfectly plausible. Remember, the most recent iPad was announced on March 7 and released March 16, and the iPhone 4S was also released less than two weeks after it was revealed to the public last October.
If the same holds true for the next device, the new iPad Mini's announcement could be quickly followed by its release.
In addition, Apple's biggest competitor, Microsoft, is slated to unleash Windows 8 this year, though a new iPad release could potentially detract from its impact if timed correctly.
What would Steve Jobs have done
Back in 2010, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs said on an earnings call that a smaller screen would be "dead on arrival."
"If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on the 7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display," he said. "This size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion."
"There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them," he added.
That does beg the question of why the iPhone and iPod Touch, with similar interfaces to the iPad but significantly smaller (3.5-inch) screens, are so easy to use.
Other sources speculate that the new iPad Mini's rumored $249-$299 price point wouldn't leave a large enough profit margin for Apple to risk cutting into sales of the larger, more expensive 3rd generation iPads.
So while a 7.85-inch iPad Mini would no doubt be a treat to hold, take these rumors with perhaps a pinch of salt.