Although Apple founder Steve Jobs roundly dismissed any notion of a smaller version of the iPad, reports are bubbling up again that an Apple tablet with a screen size closer to 7 inches is in the works.
Media reports are coming from unnamed sources in Taiwan and China, including a report from Chinese portal NetEase confirming that Apple will launch a smaller tablet in the third quarter of 2012 to counterattack the Windows 8 army. (Thank you, Google Translate.)
Some analysts and news reports have suggested a smaller iPad with a price point in the area of $300 could deliver a fatal blow to Google Android tablets and any upcoming Microsoft Windows 8 tablets.
However, Michael Oh, president of Apple retail and care specialist TechSuperpowers, said he believes Apple is not going to dive into this space. He dismisses the rumors as evidence of prototypes, not actual for-market products.
The space in that sub-$300 tablet sector is really crowded, or it will be very soon, he said, noting strong sales of Amazons Kindle Fire tablet and the numerous Android devices in various form factors. Oh explained that when Microsoft Windows 8 tablets start shipping, they could take some momentum away from Android 7-inch tablets, increasing competition further.
In addition, Apple doesnt divide up their product lines unless there is a clear differentiating factor, Oh said. They look at specific use caseslike the iPod shuffle, for people who like to go running or are on the go, or the iPod touch, which is their premium model for people who want to download applications.
With the tablet line, its difficult for me to differentiate between different tablets other than size. If they do it, there would have to be something very unique about it to differentiate it from the larger iPad, he said.
However, Oh noted that Apple is changing, and it is doing some things differentlyin some cases, trying things that Jobs, who passed away last year, would never have done.
It is possible that they may look at it from a standpoint of let's corner the market and put the nail in the coffin of Android or Microsoft," Oh said. "Apple sells on value, not necessarily on price. I dont think its compatible with their current business model. But they could change significantly if they wanted to.
Of course, when youve got a company where everything it announces seems to be a blockbuster seller (see iPad, iPad 2, the new iPad, et al), what it may come down to for Apple is the bottom line.
Oh, as a dedicated Apple customer, knows what he would do if the "iPad mini" actually saw the light of day. Oh yeah, of course, Id buy one, he said. Part of the perks of my job is having one of everything. But it would have to be really thin and very sexy.