Speculation has been mounting that Apple is developing a smaller, lighter 7-inch iPad. New rumors from Chinese sources are fueling those flames, claiming that the smaller iPad model is, in fact, completely developed and ready to start manufacturing en masse.
A report from Chinese tech blog Shanzai.com states, "Yes there will be a 7-inch tablet, yes it's well underway in terms of product development and in fact it's a finished product." The site also claims that as many as five different designs have been intentionally floated about as a diversion to distract from the real design that Apple intends to use.
Granted, the tech rumor and speculation mill is only half a step up the food chain from the sort of celebrity paparazzi and PerezHilton.com style gossip sites that bring us endless stories of Angelina Jolie cheating on Brad Pitt, or Brad Pitt cheating on Angelina Jolie, or Mel Gibson's latest psychotic episode...you get the picture. But--like the celebrity gossip sites--there is also often at least a hint of truth to the stories, and every once in a while they are dead on with breaking news.
Since the iPad launched there have been those who claim it is simply too big. The bigger screen is awesome, and the extra display real estate gives developers more to work with, but a tablet seems uniquely suited for one-handed operation. At 9.7-inches, and weighing in at a pound and a half, the iPad can be a bit unwieldy.
Seven inches seems to be the magic number for tablets right now. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a 7-inch tablet. The RIM tablet expected to be unveiled next week is rumored to be a 7-inch tablet. Dell revealed that it is working on a 7-inch tablet to follow up the 5-inch Dell Streak. Apparently seven inches is the tablet sweet spot, and it's all the rage right now, so why shouldn't Apple get in on that action?
Even at the smaller size, an iPad will probably weigh more than its competitors due to its sturdier construction. Other tablet devices and e-readers use primarily plastic casing which helps bring the weight down, but aren't as solid as the Apple tablet.
According to the Shanzai.com blog post, "the final design will in fact bear more resemblance to the iPhone 4 stylings than the original iPad design." I suppose that would mean a flatter form factor, possibly with glass on front and back, but hopefully without the antenna engineering woes of the iPhone 4.
It's possible that all of these rumors are wrong, though, or that Apple is intentionally circulating various rumors to distract from its real next-generation iPad. There are many reports of the next iPad having a camera and FaceTime capabilities, and even some speculation that Apple could rush the launch to compete against other tablets this holiday season.
As more Fortune 500 companies look at embracing the iPad, or tablets in general, the smaller 7-inch form factor may be better suited for easy transport and one-handed computing on the go.