Another week, another story about Apple supposedly working on a 7-inch iPad. This newest rumor comes courtesy of Shanzai.com, which claims to have sources inside Chinese factories tasked with producing the device.
"Yes, there will be a 7" tablet, yes it's well underway in terms of product development and in fact it's a finished product," the Website posted Sept. 24. "Yes 5 plus different designs have been floating around to help Apple protect itself from people discovering its next product look and feel but ... the final design will in fact bear more resemblance to the iPhone 4 stylings than the original iPad design."
Rumors of a smaller iPad, possibly equipped with cameras for FaceTime video conferencing, have drifted vampirelike around the Web for the past couple weeks. As far back as August, Digitimes Research predicted a 7-inch iPad due to launch in the first quarter of 2011, armed with an ARM Cortex A9-based processor.
That same month, iLounge Editor in Chief Jeremy Horwitz claimed an unnamed source told him that a 7-inch iPad would launch in either late 2010 or early 2011.
The current iPad remains a strong seller, but rival manufacturers' upcoming devices-notably the Samsung Galaxy Tab-are likely to leapfrog its hardware with features such as dual cameras for video conferencing. Hewlett-Packard is reportedly working on a set of tablet PCs with video conferencing and the ability to run Flash.
The more prominent of these devices, including the Galaxy Tab and a Dell Android tablet prototype shown off at Oracle OpenWorld, feature screens measuring 7 inches-which may become something of a sweet spot for future tablets. The 7-inch Galaxy Tab can be held easily in one hand and weighs about as much as a full can of soda.
The original iPad also invited rampant speculation in the months and weeks ahead of its January unveiling. Many of those rumors proved patently untrue, although others-including a persistent one that the device would run a modified version of the iPhone operating system-proved within spitting distance of reality.
In between speculation about Apple's possible future moves, analysts have been debating about whether the iPad is cannibalizing the market for low-end notebooks. That may not be the case, depending on whom you ask, but the general expectation is that the tablet market will only continue to expand.
"No one expected netbook sales to stay at the atmospheric levels of 2009 and in fact netbooks, as a percentage of U.S. consumer sales, have been very steady all year in the mid-teens," Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD Group, wrote in a Sept. 20 posting on the research firm's official blog. "In light of those sales facts it is, in my view, a mistaken and absolutely untenable position to claim that PC sales are under pressure because of the iPad when there are so many other factors that are contributing to the poor results."
However, other analysts see the growth in tablets as impacting the notebook market in negative ways.
"We expect tablets to continue to pressure PCs as more vendors launch products (e.g., Dell Streak and Samsung Tab) and Apple expands its iPad distribution," Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in a research note, as quoted by Fortune Magazine Sept. 17. "Tablet cannibalization" was supposedly responsible for NPD Group data showing a year-over-year dip in U.S. notebook sales.