Even the Wall Street Journal has now reported that we'll be seeing an iPad Mini this fall, citing sources in Apple's supply chain. with production beginning in September. And according to AppleInsider, a Japanese website that cites Chinese sources is also reporting that production of a new smaller iPad will begin in September and that the new device will go on sale in October. This source says that the iPad will be the same height as Google's new Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet that just went on sale, but will be somewhat wider. It will be about as thick as the iPod touch, making it slimmer than Amazon's Kindle Fire. The report says that it will be manufactured at Foxconn's facility in Brazil.
The tablet market continues to explode, greatly affecting PC sales. Given all the tablets in the 7-inch range, it's apparently the case that Apple sees this growing market diversifying and wants to compete head-to-head in the 7-inch niche, taking on the tablets from Google and Amazon, as well as 7-inch competitors from Samsung and Barnes & Noble.
Apple certainly dominates in the 10-inch size, so it will be interesting to see what happens when Microsoft's 10.6-inch Surface tablet appears this fall. Microsoft is a bit late to the game. While the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 use the Android software, opening up the devices to the large number of Android apps, Microsoft's low-end tablet will be using a different platform, with not a lot of apps available. The high-end tablet will run standard Windows 8, but it will be priced more like a laptop than a tablet, probably in the $1,000 range.
Will people want a 7.85-inch iPad? It may partly depend on price. If it's in the $250 range, I think that it will be appealing to many who can't afford the more expensive iPad 2 at $400. Plus, a lot of people just don't want to spend as much as $400 until they have a sense for whether they'll find the device to be useful.
Apple currently has 62% of the tablet market, and so far the expectation is that Apple will continue to have a commanding lead.
In other rumors, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Amazon is developing a smartphone that will compete with the iPhone. It will be manufactured by Foxconn, the same company in China that manufactures Apple products. As with the Kindle Fire, Amazon's new phone will likely be tightly integrated with Amazon's services and wealth of media content, and will run Google's Android software.
In addition, a recent rumor said that the next iPhone will come with a powerful quad-core processor. Apple is a bit behind the curve on this one, since several other smartphones with quad-core processors have already been released this year. Which is why competition is a good thing. Not only do other smartphone and tablet makers work to match Apple's innovative new products, they also often include features that exceed what Apple offers, which Apple then matches. And consumers are the beneficiaries. The downside, though, is that it gets expensive always buying the latest and greatest.