New 7.85-inch iPad mini reportedly coming in 2012

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Rumors regarding Apple’s plans for a new, smaller tablet got resurfaced on Friday, thanks to new reports from the component supply chain via DigiTimes. The site says Apple will likely introduce a 7.85-inch iPad before the fourth quarter of 2012.

The release of an “iPad mini,” as many have dubbed such a device, would follow an early 2012 release of the iPad 3, which the supply chain sources said would indeed come by the end of the first quarter of 2012, as reports have suggested. The smaller form factor released later in the year is intended as a way to “cope with increasing market competition, including the 7-inch Kindle Fire,” according to DigiTimes’ sources. Former CEO Steve Jobs had previously expressed the belief that a 7-inch tablet was simply too small, owing to software development concerns, but DigiTimes says the Amazon tablet along with large-screen smartphones coming to market (like the Galaxy Note) have caused Apple to change its position on the matter.

Apple will source the 7.85-inch panels needed for the device from LG Display and AU Optronics, the sources told the publication, with production intended to get underway “at the end of the second quarter of 2012.” Back in October, we heard that LG Display and AU Optronics had both sent samples of a 7.85-inch display to Apple for early testing and approval, a report which originally stemmed from the Economic Daily News. The displays reportedly had the same resolution as the iPad 2’s screen, which should ease the software conversion process for developers.

I think if Amazon has demonstrated anything this year, it’s that Apple could really make a splash with a smaller, cheaper tablet arriving just in time for Christmas 2012. We’ll see if these early reports end up resulting in anything tangible, but I’ve noted before that there are strong reasons to believe they will, and Amazon’s early success with its low-cost Kindle Fire adds considerably to that argument.

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