The perennial rumor of a 7-inch "mini-iPad" resurfaced again this week, with a report of a souped-up iPad 2G in a smaller form factor
from an industry analyst. According to one long-time Apple watcher, though, there'd be nothing new about such a device. Jim Dalrymple at The Loop
says Apple's always had a 7-inch variant of the iPad
that has been in development along with the 9.7-inch model we're all familiar with since the beginning.
Rumors about mini-pads have been around since the iPad itself was released. No more than a week after the official US iPad launch in April, the rumormeisters at DigiTimes came out with a report that a 7-inch version of the iPad was under development
and was being prepared for release in the first quarter of 2011, updating this report in July with a claim that Apple was working on 5-inch and 7-inch versions
targeted at the e-book market. PC World came out with a story in August saying that the 7-inch model would be available by Christmas, and in September, the Chinese website shanzai.com reported
that the smaller iPad was already a “finished product." And last week, Brian White from Ticonderoga Securities claimed that component suppliers in Taiwan leaked details to him about a smaller-form-factor iPad 2G which would sport a 7-inch Retina Display, 128GB storage and a "micro or mini" USB port. Supposedly, this device would also be available in the first quarter of next year.
Dalrymple didn't give any basis for him claim, but the guy has been around a while. He founded MacCentral.com back in 1994 and became an "editor-at-large" at MacWorld when that company acquired MacCentral and made it a subsection of its own site. So he has enormous cred and doubtless a deep network of contacts inside Apple. And as iLounge reported back in August
, "Apple has been prototyping devices with screens of this size for a long time—quite possibly predating the original iPhone." However, there was no further information about the history or current status of the 7-inch iPad: "Why did Apple choose to go with the larger model instead?" Dalrymple asked rhetorically. "Only Steve Jobs knows that for sure."
Recently there has been a spate of iPad challengers announced, all with 7-inch screens: the Samsung Galaxy Pad, Dell Streak, and BlackBerry PlayBook are all gearing up for launch. While 10-inch tablets are planned from each of these manufacturers, it seems like they've decided to challenge Apple with smaller form factor devices that are more easily portable. If Apple decided to bring its mini-iPad off the bench, it may need a richer feature set to compete. Reports of a microUSB port (for compatibility with coming EU standards) and a Retina Display may fit the bill. Dalrymple's original story said the 7-inch screen would have a "lower density" than the 9.7-inch iPad's display; he later corrected that to read "higher density," indicating that the smaller screen would maintain the 960-by-640-pixel resolution of the existing screen.