Yesterday we told you about a Bloomberg report claiming that Apple was planning to launch a 7-8-inch iPad before the end of the year. As with many other rumors, the report - which cited "two people with knowledge of [Apple's] plans" - suggested an October launch for the device.
Now new information has surfaced that appears to corroborate those rumors. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's supply chain is gearing up to begin producing the iPad Mini, as it's usually called, in September. Citing "[o]fficials at the component suppliers," the WSJ says that Apple is telling the companies in their supply chain to get ready to mass produce the device. They also corroborated reports from a few months ago that LG Display and AU Optronics were producing screens for the new iPad.
With an iPad Mini Apple would be taking aim at a market they have so far left untouched. Shortly after the original iPad released, Steve Jobs famously said that the iPad's 9.7-inch screen was the lower limit for a satisfying tablet experience. The thriving low-end tablet market, which is populated with devices like the Kindle Fire and, later this month, the Nexus 7, would appear to prove him wrong. Currently tablets like the Kindle Fire are the closest thing to real competition Apple has in the tablet market, of which it controls a significant majority. Yet they do so well precisely because they, in a sense, don't compete directly with the iPad: they're smaller and priced significantly lower. A 7-inch, $250 iPad Mini could prove to be a major game-changer in the low-end tablet market.
While rumors of an iPad Mini have been around almost as long as the iPad itself, they've been picking up in intensity in recent months. Indeed, more and more it's looking like Apple really does have a smaller tablet in the works, and that they really will be releasing it later this year. Whether they release it in October, however, remains to be seen. On the one hand, that would allow them to take advantage of the holiday shopping season, which could net them a significant chunk of the 7-inch tablet market very quickly. On the other hand, it would compete directly with the new iPhone, which will also be releasing around September or October.
At any rate, at this point it looks like the question to ask about the iPad Mini is no longer "if," but "when." And, of course "How much and where do I get in line for one?"