DigiTimes, citing its own research arm, says Apple is scheduling a 5-inch to 7-inch version of the iPad for the first quarter of 2011. After speaking with "upstream component sources," DigiTimes Research analyst Mingchi Kuo said these mini iPads will cost less than $400 and will be aimed at people who mainly want an e-reader to take on the road.
In other words, the smaller iPad would be a different product than the one that exists now. Yes, reading e-books is one of the iPad's primary functions, but the iPad is mainly a home device. It's best used on a couch or in bed, where you can sit comfortably with it. A smaller version, it seems, would be geared towards mobility, perhaps targeting people who like the idea, but find the iPad difficult to lug around.
The problem is that e-readers already fill that need, and better than a mini iPad could. The Kindle's E-Ink display is conducive to outside reading, and the device is thin and light enough to be held in one hand. Even if the iPad lost a few inches, it'd still need enough computing muscle to watch videos, play games, and render Web pages. The result would be a device that's too thick to be a comfortable e-reader and too small to be a powerful netbook substitute--in other words, the worst of both worlds.
If anything, the iPad should expand in size. The tablet's destiny--and I mean all tablets, not just the iPad--is to shake up the computer market, not to give Amazon and Barnes & Noble a hard time (though that's bound to happen as well). I want the iPad to become more like a computer, and less like a smartphone or portable media player.