As the March 7 iPad launch date approaches, a version with a 7.85-inch screen has been shipped to Apple, with mass production due for the third quarter, and a cheaper iPad 2 is also in the works.
Those are the latest rumors about the top-selling tablet-computer's next phase, courtesy of industry sources reporting to DigiTimes, the Taiwan-based newspaper that covers semiconductor and electronics manufacturing.
Opening Fire on Kindle
The report said the shrunken iPad -- the original and its successor have a 9.7-inch screen -- would be an answer to Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet. Both of the 7-inch tablets launched last November and are priced at $199.
The iPad mini would still cost more than the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet at $249 to $299, the report said. But it's far less than the current iPad, which begins at $499 for the Wi-Fi, 16-gigabyte version, going up to $829 for the 64-GB version with both Wi-Fi and 3G capability.
The report also said Apple will release an 8 GB iPad 2 for between $349 and $399, and will lower the 16-GB version to $449. The report cited unnamed sources, as is standard since Apple is tight-lipped about product launches.
As of Thursday afternoon, Apple's prices for iPads in its Web store had not changed, although retailer Best Buy had already cut prices by $50, which puts the 16-GB version at $449.
A smaller iPad would be somewhat ironic since Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs, in a 2010 earnings call with reporters, famously derided 7-inch tablets as "tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad. These are among the reasons that the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA -- dead on arrival."
A New Era?
"I doubt whether Steve Jobs would have given this product a go, but Tim Cook is more likely to allow product line expansion, making this more likely under his leadership," said technology consultant Rob Enderle.
He noted that while Samsung's 7.7-inch tablets have been well-reviewed, they haven't sold well, "which would clearly give Apple pause. "
Michael Gartenberg, a research analyst at Gartner, said Thursday that, "It is certainly possible that they keep the iPad 2 around in a different SKU to get to a lower price point." A SKU is a stock keeping unit, or code used to distinguish products.
Apple dropped the price of the iPhone 3GS to $99 when the iPhone 4 came out, but it did not continue to manufacture the original iPad when the second-generation model went into production.
Gartenberg said the price of the iPad 2 will depend on whether "they keep current specs, lower memory to perhaps 8 gigabytes or offer some kind of subsidy. There are lots of ways they can go."
Posted: 2012-03-01 @ 11:21pm PT
"a version with a 7.85-inch screen has been shipped to Apple"
What the hell have you people been smoking? :) Even my 90yo grandma knows it will never happen, or at least not this year or any time soon.