There is increasing speculation, now backed up by some evidence, that Apple is -- or at least was -- interested in developing a 7-inch version of its groundbreaking iPad tablet.
Thanks to an increasingly vitriolic, ongoing intellectual property trial between Apple and Samsung, documents reveal that Apple was considering a 7-inch iPad back in 2011, and that former Apple co-founder Steve Jobs 'receptive' to the idea before his death.
"I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one," wrote Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, in an email to now Apple CEO Tim Cook and other senior Apple executives on January 24, 2011.
"I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time. I found email, books, Facebook, and video very compelling on a 7-inch. Web browsing is definitely the weakest point, but still usable," Cue said in the email.
Problems relating to the usability of 7-inch tablets were highlighted by the Nielsen Norman Group. According to the December 2011 report, small tablets such as the Kindle Fire are a compromise because the user interface elements are too small and content isn't optimized for a screen that's bigger than a smartphone yet smaller than that of the iPad.
The email was submitted as evidence in Samsung's cross-examination on Friday, as reported by AllThingsD.
While there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Apple is working on the next-generation iPhone, an iPad 'Mini' rumors have been far more speculative. Prior to this mention, there have been no official acknowledgement, component leaks or anything to go on beyond rumor and tech gossip. The justification for the iPad Mini seems to revolve around the success of 7-inch tablets such as Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7. Amazon and Google both have a 7-inch tablet, so Apple needs one too.
However, this leaked email suggest that Apple was thinking about a 7-inch iPad before either the Amazon Kindle Fire or Google's Nexus 7 hit the market, both of which start at the budget price of $199.
The problem with the iPad Mini is that while it is technically possible for Apple to design and build a 7-inch tablet, the problem is pricing the device. It has to be competitive in the face of the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, but not priced so low as to cannibalize sales of the higher-priced full-sized iPad.
One way that Apple could bring an iPad to market that could compete with the likes of the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 is by getting the carriers to subsidize the tablet.
Image source: Nickolay Lamm/InventHelp.