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Rumors About a 7-inch iPad Mini March On

Is a 7-Inch iPad a Viable Play for Apple?

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Like Rasputin, talk about a smaller iPad just won’t die, at least for now. Appropriately dubbed as the “iPad Mini” by the online rumor mill, the prospects of Apple releasing such as device was once strongly rejected by a certain Steve Jobs. Yes, that Steve Jobs.

In the months leading up to the launch of the third-generation New iPad, however, word started to bubble in the Interwebs that Apple has had a change of heart about releasing a smaller iPad. Perhaps it was the success of Amazon’s upstart slate, the Kindle Fire. After launching late last year, the 7-inch tablet sold like gangbusters, making a real world case that maybe — just maybe — consumers need not file their fingers as Jobs said they would have to in order to enjoy a slate with a smaller form factor than the regular iPad.

Interestingly, the consensus among those in the rumor mill is that the iPad Mini will have a 7-inch screen. In addition to being the same size as the Kindle, it also happens to be the same size of the Samsung tablet Jobs was poo-poohing when he panned smaller tablets. Regardless, some analysts are absolutely loving the idea of a smaller iPad, which they see as yet another opportunity for Apple to expand its brand and figuratively print money in the process. According to a widely cited article from iMore.com, the arrival of a smaller iPad also might come sooner than some think — October this year. For perspective, Amazon’s Kindle Fire launched in November 2011 and proceeded to sell like crazy during the holiday season.

Sales — more specifically, taking them away from rivals — also appear to be driving the purported decision to release an iPad Mini. After enjoying the lion’s share of unit sales in the 10-inch-or-so category for the tablet sector, Apple reportedly wants to nip its rivals in the bud by dominating the smaller tablet category as well. Specs being floated out for the iPad Mini include a 2048-by-1536 Retina display and a price point of $300 or less. To keep costs down, the tablet is said to come with less memory than the iPad at just 8GB. Price would certainly be a key issue for Apple given the risk of a smaller, cheaper iPad cannibalizing sales of the regular iPad (or even the smaller iPod for that matter). To justify any loss of sales for the more expensive iPad, it would make sense for Apple to want to keep profit margins for a prospective iPad Mini pretty high.

If executed properly, though, an iPad Mini could lead to a net gain for Apple overall as it expands its footprint in the market. As mentioned already by some folks, the potential inroads in Asia alone could be tremendous given the preference for smaller, more portable sizes in countries such as Japan by commuters (I still remember the quizzical looks I got after I whipped out a 17-inch laptop over there once).

In short, there definitely is a case to be made for the viability of an iPad Mini. Heck, just the Apple branding alone almost guarantees such a device’s popularity — lukewarm demand for products such as Apple TV notwithstanding. The fact that Amazon experienced tremendous sales success with the Kindle Fire already shows that there is demand for a smaller 7-inch tablet. Of course, the key question remains: Will Apple go forward with the release of a smaller iPad? Given all the activity in that tablet category, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company simply may have no choice in the matter.

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