There's been no shortage of rumours about the so-called Apple iPad Mini, which is a smaller 7.85-inch version of the popular iPad tablet. However, speculation has just been given renewed life by a report in one of Taiwan's Chinese-language newspapers, United Daily News, which was picked up by Engadget's Richard Lai.
The UDN story reports that, according to Yuanta Securities, Pegatron has a contract to manufacture iPad Minis, which means that Hon Hai (aka Foxconn) will no longer be the sole supplier of iPads. Foxconn is, of course, under some strain meeting orders for Apple's iPhone 5, as shown by the forced labour of bussed-in "work experience" students on the assembly lines, according to China Daily. (Following publicity, any unwilling students were quickly allowed to return to their studies.)
UDN also notes that "the iPad mini will adopt a new generation of connectors" — presumably the new Lightning port introduced with the iPhone 5.
Finally, it says that "iPad mini can be shipped in September", though this does not indicate a launch date. Apple will want to build up a stockpile of several million units to satisfy initial demand.
Although not all Taiwanese sources can be considered reliable, The Wall Street Journal reported on 5 July that "Apple Inc.'s component suppliers in Asia are preparing for mass production in September of a tablet computer with a smaller screen than the iPad."
The idea that Apple would never do a tablet smaller than the iPad has already bitten the dust. One of the disclosures from the Apple vs Samsung trial in the US was an email from Eddy Cue, one of Apple's senior staff, saying: "I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one." That was dated 24 January, 2011.
Today, there clearly is a market for 7-inch tablets, and more than a dozen companies sell them, including Samsung, HTC and RIM. Both Google and Amazon have low-cost 7-inch tablets that appear to sell in volume, with the Nexus and Amazon's Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD models. These are eroding the iPad's market share. However, an iPad Mini seems likely to reverse that trend, with production starting at 5 million per month.