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Is Apple Working on a 7-Inch Screen iPad?

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Apple (s AAPL), perhaps worried about competition from the Android (s goog) camp, may be looking to develop a new version of iPad, this one with a 7-inch screen. It would bring such a device to market some time in 2011, according to a research note put out by Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar this morning. He writes that the second generation iPad will have both front and rear facing cameras to make it easier for video conferencing on the device, using Apple’s Facetime.

So why a second a generation iPad with different specifications this quickly? I have a theory.

In the early days of the iPhone, the lack of competition allowed Apple to build up a sizable lead over others. However, the emergence of Android has started to take away some of the growth opportunities from Apple, as it has brought more options for consumers. Competition has come early for the iPad. Samsung recently launched its Galaxy Tablets in partnership with four major U.S. carriers, and this is likely to put pressure on iPad sales.

A typical upgrade from Apple would involve Cupertino retaining the same display size for a few generations, like they did with the iPhone. In this case perhaps, the 7-inch tablet can lower the bill of materials and make it easier to source components like the display, which, in turn, allows Apple to stay competitive in the emerging tablet market.

Perhaps that’s why a new form factor for the second generation iPad makes sense. What do you guys think?

Related GigaOM Pro Content(sub req’d): Report: The Consumer Video Chat Market through 2015

75 Responses to “Is Apple Working on a 7-Inch Screen iPad?”

  1. Apple should be working on a 6.1- to 7-inch tablet. Among other uses, this would be perfect for the car audio market, to replace the Double-DIN head units (Radio/CD/DVD/NAV) to which everyone connects their current iPods and iPhones.

    Why? Wired connections kits (with installation) can cost between
    $150 and $1800.00, depending on the kit, and you get what you pay for. Many older vehicles require all new head units to make a reliable connection that smoothly integrates hands-free Bluetooth operation — a safety issue. Even if you spend all this money, you still may be stuck with a lousy, second-class touchscreen interface — even with the current crop of expensive head units. So, a smaller iPad would upend this market too.

    Come on Apple. It’s been nine years since the iPod was released. Isn’t about time we had iCar head units and integrated iPod/iPhone/iPad docks for the dashboard?

    • AirPlay’s going to let owners of iOS devices stream directly from their devices to any AirPlay enabled tech. For example, you can currently stream video to your tv via the AppleTV. Airplay’s being built using technology that already exists in other products. HP uses it in some printers. So instead of building a 7″ iPad, we just need Alpine or Blaupunkt or any other stereo maker to integrate this, then we can use our current devices as controllers.

  2. I personally would like a 7 inch Ipad. I think the Ipad is slightly too big and think the Ipod touch is too small. I think a half way point is a good idea. Especially if it costs less.
    But, in other side, the big screen ipad help me enjoy my videos on ipad. I am sticking with my iPad with so many vidoes. When I back home, I would watching all kinds of videos with my boyfriend. I think others will do the same once they try it and realize it is the perfect personal computer :-)
    So, I prefer the big screen ipad. By the way, To watch all kinds of videos and movies on ipad, we should thanks be to God, ahaa, just a joke. we should thanks to iFunia. this third party supplies the best ipad video converter so that we can save all kinds of vidoes on ipad.

    • Hmmm. Approved commenting seems more about adding value to the conversation rather than being progressive. No value to your words? You’re cut or edited. TIm’s point: a link to Gruber’s article would have been more respectful to Gruber, his content, and Om’s audience. Netiquette.

      For my part, I’m skeptical of the 7″ rumor. The size/form factor of the current gen is truly elegant, so perhaps Apple will shift focus from hardware to the software component (and the iOS developer ecosphere) to better explore where the tablet will go – at least initially. This would offer Apple opportunity to get something of a roadmap, a bit of cartography to this new terrain.

      Just my two cents.

  3. From John Gruber:

    Om Malik, in a piece headlined “Is Apple Working on a 7-Inch Screen iPad?”:

    Apple, perhaps worried about competition from the Android camp, may be looking to develop a new version of iPad, this one with a 7-inch screen. It would bring such a device to market some time in 2011, according to a research note put out by Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar this morning. He writes that the second generation iPad will have both front and rear facing cameras to make it easier for video conferencing on the device, using Apple’s FaceTime.

    So why a second a generation iPad with different specifications this quickly? I have a theory.

    Will Apple make a 7-inch iPad? And if so, would it be the new size for the iPad, or a second size, alongside the existing just-under-10-inch size? I don’t know. But I do know that Ashok Kumar has quite a track record regarding prognostications regarding the iPad and other Apple products.

    Regarding the then-imminent iPad, Kumar told CNet on January 20:

    “Apple will have two different (offerings). Taking a page out of the Google book, one will be subsidized through a (telecommunications) carrier and the other one will be direct through their stores.”

    Wrong. The iPad comes in both 3G/Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-only flavors, but both are sold directly from Apple, with no carrier subsidies (and no contracts).

    One day later, just a week before the iPad was unveiled as a GSM device on AT&T in the U.S., Kumar gave the following “exclusive” information to

    The hotly anticipated Apple Tablet — or the Apple Newton II — will feature a wireless chip made by Qualcomm. This discrete little fact would confirm that Apple has chosen Verizon as its telco partner, says Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar.

    Right after the iPad went on sale in April, Kumar had this to say about demand in a report by The Financial Times:

    Apple had told manufacturers it wanted to produce a million iPads per month and “that’s clearly in excess of demand,” said Ashok Kumar, an industry analyst at Rodman & Renshaw. “Eventually it will find a niche and a success, but it’s not going to be of the scale and scope of the iPhone.”

    In fact, the supply of iPads was unable to meet demand until just a few weeks ago. The iPad is selling faster in its first year than the iPhone did.

    This is the same Ashok Kumar who on 12 October 2009 issued a “research report” asserting:

    “Sales of iPhone through China Unicom, to state it mildly, have been disappointing. Volumes since launch have run at a fraction of stated goals.”

    The iPhone did not go on sale through China Unicom until 15 October 2009.

    This is the same Ashok Kumar who, in another “exclusive” to, “confirmed” back in January that the iPhone 4 would be on Verizon this summer. (That’s the summer that officially ends this week.)

    This is the same Ashok Kumar who in July 2007, one month after the iPhone went on sale, declared it a dud:

    “In the Harry Potter books, a squib is the offspring of a witch and wizard that lacks the ability to produce magic,” Kumar explained. “In the technology world, the iPhone is a product from Apple teamed with the wireless network of AT&T that lacks the ability to produce magical business growth.”

    Betting on a 7-inch iPad based on a Kumar “research note” is pretty much like betting on the time of day based on a stopped clock.

  4. I’d certainly want a 7″ iPad for carrying in the inside pocket of my jacket, like a paperback, for the times that I don’t want to carry a computer basg or backpack. Or reading a novel in bed. Doesn’t mean i don’t want the bigger one – I’d go for both, as soon as they start selling them in Norway…
    The argument about fragmentation is moot: The screen can have the same resolution as the bigger iPad, just smaller pixels. Kind of a “half way retina”. looking sharper than the present iPad – with no fragmentation of the iOS.

  5. There are a lot of reasons why a 7″ iPad would be a good move and not all of them related to competition and market forces. The main one that pops up in my mind is the fact that sooner or later they will have to make an iPad that you can do work on instead of just view movies and magazines.

    The 7″ form factor is much better for that given that it would allow for thumb typing like on the iPhone. The *fastest* method of input on mobile devices today is thumb typing in portrait mode on the iPhone. The current iPad makes this almost impossible and certainly much much slower than many other devices and methods.

    The smaller Android tablets coming out soon will make this obvious IMO. Apple either already has something like this in the works or they will be forced to move to it by the success of these tablets.

    • I don’t know if Apple is or isn’t building a 7″ tablet, but I’m not sure I buy the logic of speedy text input. Yes, it could be faster than on the current iPad, but Swype is likely an even faster input method for most for people than thumb typing on a tablet in portrait mode. Definitely with the look if you haven’t seen it in action – Android only as of now.

  6. Apple has no tablet competition in sight. No from a bunch of knockoff Android tablets thats for sure. Even Google says Android isn’t ready for tablets yet and wont be until next year sometime at the earliest.
    This article isjust space filler anyway like most Giga Om articles.

  7. The only reason Apple would come out with a 7″ iPad is to fill in the gap between the current Ipad and Touch.

    A 7″ would allow them to make a cheaper Ipad to reach more consumers and prevent competition from undercutting them as much.

    Plus a 7″ form factor would appeal to those that like the smaller size, lighter weight of the Kindle, Nook, etc ebook readers.

    I do not believe a 7″ ipad would replace the 9″ one.

  8. Grier Graham

    An important reason for 7″ iPad is that the 10″ still is too heavy for one handed reading ala Kindle. With better screen optics, and a lower price, this is sure to accelerate Apple sales.

  9. There won’t be a 7 inch iPad. Why would Apple decide 7 inch is better based on still fledgling competition? There are always people who want Apple to be all things to all people but they never will be. It is focusing on a few things that make those few things so good.

  10. I think the 7″ iPad makes it much more of a focused e-reader device.

    Its that much lighter, and easier to carry around when on holiday, on the train — compared to the 9.7″

    The 9.7″ is an all-purpose formfactor as it gets to the 7″ size its better suited as a competitors to the kindle.

    Also i can imagine its more likely to be able to produce a retina display on a smaller screen.

    Finally, agree with everyone else here.

    This was probably on their roadmaps but 2 things have happened:
    – unexpected market adoption — better than Apple realised.
    – faster competition from Samsung, HP, Android.

  11. I don’t think the 7″ tablet market woudl be really appealing to Apple. When you think about it, the tablet is in many ways the precursor to the laptop replacement of the future. So where I see Apple moving is up. Up in size, up in performance, up in open software development and up in standardization. If other screen sizes come into the picture, I would imagine a 13″ model could be the next logical step. That’s just my opinion, tough.

    If they move downwards to compete with the galaxy tab they would be proing that they don’t really have a vision for the future of these devices, they’re just following market trends. I wouldn’t wanna see Apple go with that flow.

  12. Here is my take on 7 inch iPad rumor from Apple. Apple when introduces a new device it normally leaves out a few obvious features for the future updates. Given the success of 10″ iPad and the fact that it has started reaching global market only now, Apple would not like to unveil a 10″ iPad 2.0. However, a nice product that will help capture the remaining tablet market is 7″ iPad or iPad mini. Apple would definitely like to go for it.

    • Well…. who’s buying iPad in it’s current form factor… legals, doctors, students, airlines, restaurants, GP’s, engineers, corporates, teachers, logistics and transport industry… and they are buying in bulk…

  13. myonlinelifenow

    I don’t usually think much of what gigaom says is wrong, but I’ll go out on a limb and say, “You’re wrong” Everyone complained that the iPad was just a big iPhone, but really isn’t a 7″ tablet more like a big iPhone? 7″ tablets work great for watching HD movies but that’s about it. You’re giving up screen real estate just so you can watch movies. I don’t Apple would play that game. The iPad’s screen size is designed to do more than view things. They want a two way system. Produce and consume. Written material, either websites or emails. Newspapers or novels just don’t do well on a 7″ screen. 9″ and a bit does just fine. Even 4″ and a bit does well on the small side. But there seems to be a black hole of usefulness when you hit 5, 6 and 7″ inches for a tablet thus far. Competition has just begun in the tablet market and as much as everyone feels Apple has to win, I think they are fine to just wait and see. They didn’t make the first mp3 player or PMP or Phone or Tablet. If 7″ really does take off, they’ll bring in something but I doubt it. Of course I’m saying this without actually holding the device but like I said, to do more than watching a movie, 7″ just doesn’t cut it and Apple won’t be made to look like a fool..I think.

    • “Newspapers or novels just don’t do well on a 7″ screen.”

      I take it you’ve never heard of the Amazon Kindle? Newspapers and novels seem to be doing pretty well on that device.

  14. I’m highly skeptical of a 7-inch iPad, and doubtful of the success of the other 7-inch tablets coming out. An additional screen-size would complicate things for iOS app developers — as can be seen with Android. Also, it’s an awkward size: too small to be a tablet, but too large to be a phone and barely pocketable. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 7-inch screen decision by other manufacturers was cost-driven.

    Then again, I was just as skeptical about the name “iPad”.

  15. That is a stupid rumor. They explained why 9.7″ is great, it would ruin the size of the keyboard, and what about the app developers having to maintain three views for their apps? iPad is mauling the notebook market, and it makes no sense to change the formfactor. I would however expect a front facing camera and hardware updates. THAT would make sense. And even If they were really building a 7″, why haven’t there been any P.O. Leaks like there were with the iPad?

  16. Mark Hernandez

    And any of you who use the expression “losing market share” or “losing to the competition” also identify yourselves as people who do not understand the complexities of the marketplace.

    In a sentence, because Apple is not at all like it’s competitors (because it makes both the hardware and the software and has unique relationships with carriers, etc) it does not depend on the most market share to leave the competition in the dust in ways that matter.

    To help you understand what little you really know, which is what happened to me, you can learn more by reading for starters.

    And OM, I love GigaOM but I think you should have a little more control over some of your authors and get them to spend more time on their articles and help readers understand such complexities of the marketplace.

    We come here to learn, and articles should be informative, illuminating and clarifying experiences. Right? You are the guys that spend all your time being in touch with everything, and article writing is the medium you use to transmit that clearer understanding to others.

    As you know, writing has to strike a balance, because if you go too far on the side of brevity, it causes misunderstanding, misconception, and triggers wild comments that are great for site visits, but takes a toll on your site’s reputation.

    Thanks for listening.

    Mark Hernandez
    The Information Workshop

    • Oh Mark, you were on a roll. I was just thinking to myself: “This guy knows EVERYTHING! Wow!” And then you had to ruin it all with that genitive case. Writing doesn’t just need balance. It also needs punctuation and grammar. Bummer.

      • Mark Hernandez

        Ha ha. Thanks for that Dylan. Yeah, I learn a lot by practice, and people like you who help me learn more. For instance, one time this one guy helped me learn that punctuation goes inside quotes by ripping me to shreds. I can take it. :-)

        Not only that, it’s a bummer when you hit submit and then discover you left in an extra word when you were rearranging a sentence. Most commenting systems don’t allow you to edit.

        I guess we can agree that language, like the mobile marketplace and article writing, is complex and there’s so much to learn and we can all help each other get better at it. And thanks for helping me. I love it. I have a tendency to use too many commas, too. :-)

  17. Mark Hernandez

    Om, I’m very surprised that you wrote “perhaps worried about competition…” You of anyone should know that Apple has things planned out 5 years into the future, with lots of contingencies. This is the game that they’re masters of. There are a range of iMacs and a range of MacBook Pros and there will be a range of iPads. You don’t come out with a range of products with the product’s introduction if you don’t have to, do you?

    It’s foolish to think of Apple as “reactionary” in the sense of following what others are doing. They are nothing if not flexible. And when they pave the way with a product that didn’t before exist, they are the first to understand that they cannot predict what will actually happen and have contingencies ready. And they loosen up only when they have to (like the recent relaxing of their app development restrictions).

    So many people just don’t get why the “original” iPad did not come with front and rear cameras. But Apple had it running in their labs and decided against it. Why?

    It’s because the original iPad was too heavy for people to hold appropriately for FaceTime and the image on the other end would either jiggle uncontrollably or you’d be looking up their nose. Also, Apple didn’t have to include cameras for it to be supremely successful and saved that for later. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

    Apple had Adobe Flash running on the iPhone and iPad in their labs and made the decision to not support it. Why?

    Because they knew that people would not understand why smooth scrolling suddenly became clunky and frustrating and they’d tap on things on a web page and nothing would happen and would blame Safari and Apple for such a crappy browser. Right? They’re no fools.

    So anyone who thinks Apple is “scrambling to deal with competition” just identifies themselves as someone who has too a simplistic an understanding of the complex dynamics of the marketplace, which includes how you play the game of leading the way, and how you deal with customers that don’t understand the complexities of technology.

    And some of the comments above are perfect examples of this.

    • Mark, did you ever consider that maybe Apple had planned a 7″ iPad all along, and as you assert, have been planning it for “5 years”?

      I currently own and have owned several Apple products over the last 6 years. Apple are masters at releasing products that lack obvious features so that they can milk their customers again 6-12 months later when they release an updated version that is what the first should have been.

    • What I found most disappointing from Om was “stay competitive.” Stay competitive? Even if Apple “loses” to Android, who is selling more NAND Flash-based, ARM-powered, touchscreen-capable devices than Apple? Who has 3 synergistic lines to further leverage volume pricing of components? Does someone else have their volumes, margins, inventory and channel control that I am unaware of?

    • I thought we already had a range of iPads. We have the 3g and wifi only models, as well as the different storage capacities. That’s the exact same setup we have with iPhones and iPods. Same form factors, different capacities.

  18. For me, it makes perfect sense. 7″ Retina Display would seriously kick asses. Having a model between iPod Touch and iPad would be a strong counterargument to naysayers that bring up “limited lineup” as a reason of Apple’s losing to comentition.

    I think that when given choice between 10″ and 7″ iPad, I would opt to 7″ one.

    • Mark Hernandez

      I agree. A 7″ with a Retina display that doubles the 1024×768 iPad screen size where all the previous apps work perfectly and copies what they did with the iPhone 4 makes sense. There is also a rumor that Apple is looking into super light glass. They ALWAYS follow devices with one that is thinner and lighter.

  19. I think it’s much more probable that this is just a false rumour. I think Apple will actually try to use its apps as a distinct factor to the Android Tablet, after all real productivity apps like the apps by Omni are not upgrades from the phone version, but downgrades from the Mac version. Android will have troubles to match that because of the lack of an Android version for PCs.

  20. I believe it is a personal choice. I for one, love the current iPad form factor, it provides a good amount of screen real-estate for neat user experiences (like Twitter for iPad, Flipboard etc.) to be developed. I think Apple could perhaps add a 7inch form factor (“iPad Mini”) so it can be “pocketable”, but should IMO keep the 10inch version as well. Regarding cameras, I think the iPad really needs a front facing camera for FaceTime.

    Having said that if the 7inch can shave off $100 (or more) from the price, it could go a long way.

  21. pk de cville

    If they actually do this, they’ll also ship a 2nd gen ver of the 9.7″ model to provide choice, keep mkt share, and support customer proprietary apps that depend on the larger screen.

  22. To me it simply does not make sense. He has spent considerable resources in building the “perfect size” tablet. He actually, said that during the iPad launch and continued to explain why 9.7″ is the right size.

    Now, Jobs is running scared so he will build a 7″ iPad? Which would indicate that the 7″ iPad has been on the companies road map for a number years; prior. Curious — that Jobs is loosing ground to Android on the handset front but he is worried (rumor) about the iPad.