Apple iPad 'Mini' rumors; year end launch possible

Rumors of an Apple iPad "Mini" are starting to get some credible backing.

Apple's component suppliers are gearing up for mass production of a smaller-sized iPad in September, said The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, according to people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg, meanwhile, similarly reported that a 7 or 8-inch tablet is in the works, and will debut by the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal's two sources --- who asked not to be named --- claim the new tablet will "likely come with a screen smaller than 8-inches," compared to the iPad's 9.7-inch screen. Since its launch in 2010, the iPad has not seen a screen size change, though the iPad 3 boasts a high-definition, pixel-packed Retina display.

Apple is said to be working with LG Display for the "iPad Mini" screens, according to one of the sources, while the other said Apple had signaled to manufacturing partners to prepare for mass production on the smaller tablet.

It follows earlier reports that the so-called "iPad Mini" would arrive in the third-quarter in time for the Christmas holiday, and corroborating recent rumblings that the technology giant is preparing to launch the production lines for the highly-anticipated device.

NPD DisplaySearch's Richard Shim told CNET on Tuesday that there was a "business plan" for a 7.85-inch iPad. He also noted how supply chain companies -- firms that make the components and build the end-product -- were gearing up the production lines, but noted that "plans can be altered."

Bloomberg reports the long-awaited "smaller, cheaper iPad" may be announced by October, but will lack the high-definition Retina display that the iPad 3 boasts.

Sterne Agee & Leache analyst Shaw Wu said the "iPad mini" will likely sell at a similar price tag to that of the Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 tablet.

Last week, Google debuted the 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, selling at $199 -- the same price as the Android-powered Kindle Fire -- and will likely end up serving as the prime competition to Apple's anticipated 7-inch iPad.

Microsoft's Windows-powered Surface tablet, announced in June, has a larger 10.6-inch display, but pricing has yet to be announced. Windows division president Steven Sinofsky said the device will be "priced like comparable tablets."

Surface is also expected to debut on store shelves this fall in time for Christmas.

Apple declined to comment to CNET.

This article originally appeared on CNET under the title "Apple iPad 'Mini' rumors heat up; launch seen by year's end"

  • Zack Whittaker On Twitter»

    Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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