Apple is reportedly working on a 7-inch tablet to take on Amazon's Kindle Fire. Technology analyst Ezra Gottheil told Computerworld that a smaller version of the 9.7-inch iPad has always "been in the plan" for the Cupertino-based company, and could see store shelves as soon as this year. But late founder Steve Jobs was vehemently opposed to a smaller iPad, saying the screen would be too small to "express the software." All things considered, would producing a smaller, more portable $200 tablet be in Apple's best interest?

No, it makes no sense for Apple to cannibalize its own market share: "It's tough to justify a mini iPad," says Chenda Ngak at CBS News. Sure, there's a demand for 7-inch tablets, as demonstrated by the Kindle Fire's 6 million units sold last quarter. But Apple moved well over 15 million iPads in the same period and really has "no incentive" to launch a smaller tablet for $200. "Releasing a mini iPad would only pull customers from regular iPads, not necessarily mini-tablets, like the Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble's Nook." The plan Gottheil outlines "could just be pandering to budget-conscious gadget lovers." But that doesn't sound like Apple.
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A mini iPad could work for students, however: We all knew Jobs wasn't interested in a smaller iPad, says E.D. Kain at Forbes. But it "might make sense for [a Tim Cook-led] Apple to release a smaller iPad, especially if they seriously pursue the textbook market." While it'd be a "risky" decision to cut the price, pairing the device with an external keyboard — like Gottheil predicts Apple will — would make a 7-inch iPad an attractive purchase for cash-strapped students. Though a 2012 release is probably too soon, "it's almost certain that at some point in the future we'll see an iPad mini (or maybe a larger iPod touch)."
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Apple wouldn't play by anyone else's rules: The Kindle Fire is "tearing up the charts," says Joel Evans at ZDNet, and since consumers are still "torn" between 7-inch and 10-inch tablets, now would be as good a time as any for Apple to break form and I wouldn't be surprised if it decided to try its hand. "That said, Apple doesn't conform so the company will probably invent a new category called the 'micro tablet' or something."
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