Smaller iPad talk resurfaces, but Apple won't be tempted, say experts

CEO Tim Cook doesn't address rumors, intimates 7-in. Kindle Fire is a 'limited function...product'

Apple is unlikely to pull the trigger on a smaller-sized iPad, experts said today.

Talk of an iPad sporting a smaller screen resurfaced -- that talk isn't new -- after the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported Tuesday that Apple was contemplating a tablet with an 8-in. display.

According to the newspaper, officials at some Apple suppliers said the Cupertino, Calif. company was circulating specifications for a smaller iPad and qualifying partners, including LG Display of South Korea, for possible manufacturing of the less-expansive displays.

An 8-in. iPad would be slightly larger than Amazon's 7-in. Fire tablet, millions of which are thought to have been sold since its November 2011 launch. Such an iPad would shave several inches from the current model's dimensions, and probably cut hundreds of dollars from its price.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, believes a smaller iPad is inevitable.

"Although a [smaller] iPad won't be part of the March event," said Gottheil, referring to the expected March 7 unveiling of the next 10.7-in. iPad, "one has always been in the plan. They've always wanted one. And it's actually a good form factor for some users."

The trade-offs in a smaller iPad would include increased portability and less weight, countered by a shrunken viewing area and more difficulty typing on the onscreen keyboard.

But others think a different-sized iPad is far from certain.

Aaron Vronko, the CEO of Rapid Repair, a firm that fixes broken iPhones, iPods and iPads, ticked off reasons why Apple is unlikely to offer a smaller tablet.

Developers, for one.

Adding another screen size to the iPad line would require iOS app developers to support multiple tablet displays. "I think a smaller iPad would be questionable," said Vronko, "because Apple has been able to appeal to [iPad] developers with its single screen format."

Another issue with a smaller iPad, added Vronko, is on the marketing side, but because Apple is, well, Apple, that carries considerable weight.

In that theory, Apple has gone to considerable lengths to define and separate its primary products -- iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Mac -- by, among other things, screen size. To introduce a smaller iPad would muddy the waters, something Apple has spent substantial effort to avoid.

The same argument, Vronko said, makes a larger-sized iPhone screen also unlikely. Last year, just prior to the debut of the iPhone 4S, many believed that Apple would match those Android handset rivals that produce smartphones with larger screens.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney called a smaller iPad "very smart," but then added he thought it a long-shot that Apple would actually sell one.

"[More size choice] makes a lot of sense, and their appeal depends on what people want to do with them," said Dulaney. "But I would say they won't create a smaller iPad.

Dulaney referred to Apple's public position on smaller tablets as a reason.

In October 2010, former-CEO Steve Jobs made one of his rare earnings call appearances to belittle 7-in. tablets.

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