Despite the reluctance of late CEO Steve Jobs, Apple is reportedly gearing up to launch a smaller-sized iPad.
Reports Thursday from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal -- both citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter -- suggest Apple manufacturers in China are prepping to kick off production of a smaller iPad this September. If this timeline proves accurate, it means a mini iPad could land in consumers’ hands by the end of the year.
Screen size for the tablet is projected to fall between 7 and 8 inches diagonally, compared to the 9.7-inch screen delivered with the first three generations of iPads. Display manufacturers LG Display and AU Optronics are reportedly in the running to be suppliers of the new screens.
[Related: Apple's Longtime Mac Hardware Chief Retiring]
Apple’s production of a 7- or 8-inch iPad would go directly against the wishes of former chief exec and tech icon Steve Jobs who, before passing away in October, argued more screen real estate was necessary to capitalize on apps and software, making them as clear and crisp as possible.
"The reason we [won't] make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit [a lower] price point," Jobs said during an Apple earnings call in 2010. "It’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software driven company, we think about the software strategies first."
Other PC makers, however, have gone to market with more modestly sized tablets, such as Amazon with its Kindle Fire and Samsung with its 7-inch Galaxy Tab. Software giant Google also joined the small tablet ranks this year, with the launch of its new 7-inch Nexus 7.
Bloomberg noted that a smaller screen would likely compromise the iPad’s pixel count, meaning the new device couldn't support the same high-resolution Retina display seen with the latest, third-generation iPad. The size reduction would, however, allow Apple to build and sell the device at a lower price tag, bringing a new level of competition to OEMs like Google and Amazon that already sell 7-inch tablets.
"It would be the competitors' worst nightmare," Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach told Bloomberg. "The ball is in Apple’s court."
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has already carved a significant space for itself in the worldwide tablet market with its 9.7-inch iPad. According to industry analysts at IDC, the iPad accounted for a hefty 58.2 percent of global tablet shipments last year, and that number is expected to grow to an even more staggering 62.5 percent in 2013.
PUBLISHED JULY 5, 2012