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Try to at least act surprised when you read this, but yet another news giant has now "confirmed" that Apple will be hopping into the small tablet space this fall with a junior version of the iPad priced much closer to competing slates like the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire.
The New York Times is reporting that Apple is indeed working on a smaller version of its wildly successful iPad, just as Google begins to ship its Nexus 7 tablet and rumors of a new Kindle Fire from Amazon begin to heat up.
"The company is developing a new tablet with a 7.85-inch screen that is likely to sell for significantly less than the latest $499 iPad, with its 9.7-inch display, according to several people with knowledge of the project who declined to be named discussing confidential plans," the report reveals. "The product is expected to be announced this year."
The move is kind of a no-brainer, considering the strategy used for its other product lines. The classic iPod gave way to an iPod nano (and even iPod shuffle), the iMac is sold in a couple of screen sizes and even the company's notebook products come in what's now a trio of sizes ranging from 11 inches to 15 inches (the 17-inch MacBook Pro was put out to pasture last month).
Of course, just two years ago, Apple executives -- including co-founder Steve Jobs -- were quick to dismiss tablets with a seven-inch form factor.
“There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them,” Jobs said at the time, explaining that such diminutive screens would have to be sold with sandpaper for filing down one's fingertips in order to use them properly. “This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.”
But times have changed, and both the Kindle Fire and the well-reviewed Nexus 7 appear to be proof that there is indeed an audience for a smaller tablet -- and Apple isn't likely to turn a blind eye to those buyers for much longer.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter