Citing unnamed sources "with knowledge of the product," the New York Times this weekend reported that a 7.85-inch iPad is coming from Apple. Previously both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg also reported this tidbit. So it's starting to seem increasingly likely. iMore says that Apple will probably simply shrink down the 9.7-inch interface to the smaller size. The "iPad mini" will be about two-thirds the size of the current iPad. The Times quotes a former Apple manager as saying that it will have strong appeal to people who don't currently carry their iPads because they're too large and heavy. And one analyst is quoted as saying that it will be especially well suited for reading books and consuming media. The article says that it may even be positioned as part of the iPod touch family, but I have my doubts. I think it will follow on the coattails of the amazing iPad brand recognition.
The article says that the iPad strategy may be similar to Apple's earlier and fabulously successful iPod strategy, in which they developed many different devices tailored to various consumer niches, effectively owning the MP3 player market. The iPad mini will compete with the Kindle Fire from Amazon and Google's new Nexus 7 tablet running Android that went on sale recently.
Apple is still expected to dominate the market, despite the appearance of the Nexus 7, and a rumored 10-inch tablet from Amazon, and the 10.8-inch tablet recently announced by Microsoft. Apple is projected to sell 69 million iPads this year. Whatever happens, the competition will have one result that's certain: better and more varied tablets for consumers.
Even as this additional iPad news was heating up the blogosphere, there were also rumors that production of the iPhone 5 has begun. AppleInsider reported details from a Japanese blog, which said that Chinese manufacturers are starting to ramp up production. AppleInsider also gives some details about the design, saying that the two-tone aluminum unibody construction that was widely rumored (including photos) was a prototype device and that the model in production is somewhat different, with an aluminum back plate that is partially covered by inlaid glass (rather than the glass back plate as on current models).
In addition, AppleInsider is reporting that a Taiwanese site has posted photos of the new iPhone. As before, the photos suggest that it will be the same width, but taller, resulting in a 4-inch display and 16-to-9 aspect ratio. And similar to earlier rumors, the photo shows a FaceTime camera centered above the earpiece on the front of the phone.
All of this points to an interesting evolution of personal computing. It began with desktop computers, morphed to laptops and netbooks, and extended to smartphones. And now we're getting all the sizes in between. You'll have sizes for different purposes and different people. Most people will have multiple-sized devices, with all of them in sync via the cloud. Eventually I suppose we'll think of the cloud as our computer, with many different devices on hand in our environment to connect to it.