Friday brought reports that Apple may still offer a smaller 7-inch iPad despite Steve Jobs' rejection of the idea back in October.
Unnamed sources have told Reuters that iPad component manufactures in Asia are gearing up for a new round of production in Q1 2011. Touchscreen chip designer Wintek Corp, battery maker Simplo Technology Co Ltd and privately held electronic product cover manufacturer AVY Precision are three of the named suppliers supposedly providing parts for the next model.
But this isn't anything new, as Steve Jobs is expected to reveal the next iPad (2) in early January for an April 2011 release. At first Reuters' article clearly regurgitates earlier reports, as sources say the manufacturers will provide more of the same components already used in the current model and what seems to be new items to be included-- namely the two cameras supposedly provided by Genious Electronic Optical Co Ltd and Largan Precision Co Ltd, a slimmer, lighter form factor and a better resolution.
But then Reuters claims that a separate supply chain source indicated that Apple was gearing up for an iPad nearly half the size of the current 9.7-inch model. No other details were provided, and Apple and the five mentioned manufacturers have declined to provide a comment. According to Reuters, the contacts associated with the supply chain "declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the topic and because of Apple's obsession with secrecy."
However Reuters' report also points out that Steve Jobs has thwarted rumors before, only to reveal them to be true later on down the road. At one time Jobs seemingly laughed at the idea of adding video playback to the iPod, yet the feature was eventually implemented and still exists in several current models.
Believe it or not, analysts actually believe that Apple needs a smaller iPad. "Having different sizes expands the market and makes it appeal to more people," said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu. Steve Jobs said differently back in October 2010 however, saying that the 7-inch screen would be "too small to express the software."
Still, a smaller iPad could provide a lower pricetag which in turn would allow it to better compete with Dell's Streak, Samsung's Galaxy Tab and other tablets with a small form factor.
Steve Jobs is expected to reveal the new iPad(s) in three weeks, perhaps slightly later if he repeats the original iPad's release schedule.