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Rumors of an ‘iPad mini’ begin to surface

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Apple isn’t really known for reacting to competition, but rumors of an iPad mini have begun to surface. The device may or may not have a smaller screen–likely around the 7-inch size of the Amazon Kindle Fire–but it would be priced much lower than the current $500-$820 iPad, likely around $200-$300, says analyst Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities. The new device could launch in March-May 2012, which is usually when Apple announces new iPad models.

“We believe this lower priced iPad could be priced in the mid-to-high-$200 range,” wrote White in a note to investors. “We expect this will be followed by a much more powerful, feature rich standard-priced iPad 3 in (the second quarter of 2012).”

While Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color ($250) and the Amazon Kindle Fire ($200) have seen success at smaller screen sizes and prices, AppleInsider astutely points out that Steve Jobs personally bashed the 7-inch form factor as too small when Samsung unveiled its original 7-inch Galaxy Tab.

In October of 2010, Jobs laid into Android and BlackBerry, criticizing the platforms for all sorts of things and one of his targets was 7-inch tablets. He said that 7 inches isn’t enough and called them “tweener” models, meaning they’re too large to be smartphones and too small to be usable tablets. “We think the current crop of tablets will be DOA, dead on arrival,” said Jobs. “[manufacturers will] learn the screens are too small and increase the size next year, while the old ones will be orphan products.”

For the most part, this prediction has been correct. Most manufacturers switched to 10.1-inch tablet models throughout 2011, though few have seen success at that size either. The few tablets that have released at 7 inches, like the BlackBerry PlayBook and HTC Flyer, haven’t fared well. The Nook Color and Kindle Fire (which is seeing strong preorders), with prices half that of other 7-inch tablets, are the only small devices that seem to be thriving at the reduced size, though one could attribute their success to their focus on reading and tight integration with one content brand. 

Will Apple come out with a smaller or cheaper tablet (or both)?

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