Apple is planning to launch a 7.85-inch version of the iPad this fall, according to the New York Times, as it looks to keep up its dominance in the tablet industry.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company's will reportedly offer the shrunken iPad at a cheaper price than its 9.7-inch model to compete with the Kindle Fire and other low-end tablets. Apple has declined to comment on reports about the new device.
The chances of Apple launching a smaller tablet than its current iPad always seemed rather low due to the success it enjoyed with past models, as well as the company's late CEO's stance on the issue. Steve Jobs famously proclaimed in 2010 that 7-inch tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook would be "dead on arrival" because they were "too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad."
Jobs was right about the fate of the Playbook and the Galaxy Tab, but times have changed since his pronouncement, and 7-inch tablets seem to have found a place in the tablet market. Amazon's Kindle Fire has sold well since its start late last year, and critics are giving Google's upcoming Nexus 7 glowing reviews, leading analysts to expect big things from the tablet when it hits the market.
These new devices threatening Apple's dominance of the tablet market are providing the perfect opportunity for the company to answer with a new, smaller tablet. Google is putting all its efforts into getting its Nexus 7 off the ground in expectations of serving a part of the market Apple's current iPad is neglecting, but a cheaper tablet from Apple at any point in the next couple of months could be all it takes to throw a wrench into the search giant's plans.
Although it's still unconfirmed whether Apple's new tablet is a reality, the 7.85-inch screen size is likely. The company would be able to stick behind Jobs' past comments, while trumpeting how that extra.85-inch makes all the difference in performance without drastically affecting the size of the device. And, while there is also no price information for the rumored product, the closer Apple can get to Google's $200 Nexus 7, the greater impact it will have on the device's sales.
Apple is known for its secrecy and while these new reports seem to be stronger than past rumors that suggested the possibility of a smaller iPad, the timing is curious. Analysts expect the Nexus 7 to sell well out of the gate and the device is earning a lot of good will from critics. However, the very idea that Apple could have a similar tablet on the way could be enough to bring some customers to hold back on a purchase of the Nexus 7, hurting the devices early performance.
Google and Amazon are gaining traction in the tablet market, and while a cheaper iPad seems like it would make a lot of sense at now, it may make just as much sense for Apple to leak false rumors about one, in case there isn't really one on the way now.