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iPad "mini" drumbeat continues as NYT supports rumor of smaller tablet

You can't swing a Mighty Mouse nowadays without smacking into a major media story on the inevitable, hypothetical and incredible shrunken-form-factor iPad. Our Monday morning Rumor Roundup series has linked the WSJ and Bloomberg coverage, pointing towards a late Q3-early Q4 launch for a 7.85" (~20 cm) companion to the existing 9.7" (~24.6 cm) iPad units. We're also hearing murmurs from the developer community that there are changes in iOS 6 making it much easier to develop resolution-independent apps; different screen sizes or aspect ratios for apps should be possible.

Given the highly positive response to the Google/ASUS Nexus 7 (including, amazingly enough, from MG Siegler at Techcrunch), it seems like a smaller Apple tablet product would find an audience. The Kindle Fire's sales may have slacked off, but it and other e-reader models also may be skimming off some of the iPad's potential audience.

Now the New York Times Nick Bilton has weighed in, saying that "according to several people with knowledge of the project" who wisely asked to remain anonymous, Apple will indeed be introducing a 7.85" iPad this year at a lower price point than the current iPad's $499 or the iPad 2's $399. Bilton acknowledges that the iPad's current mojo means that "tablet market" really means "iPad market," but he says that a smaller device would "help Apple solidify its dominance in the tablet market even as the richest companies in the tech business are trying to figure out how to outflank Apple."

Bilton's piece is light on rumor-fodder specs but long on analysis, and worth a read. Most intriguing: he quotes a product insider saying that Apple's prototypes for the iPad in the mid-2000s (which predated the iPhone's release) began in the 7-inch range. The smaller tablets did not get much traction with Steve Jobs, who suggested that they weren't good for anything besides surfing the web in the bathroom.

Wondering what this sized-down iPad might be called? So are we (and so is 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman); give us your votes in the poll below and in the comments.

What will the hypothetical smaller iPad be called?
iPad mini374 (54.8%)
iPad nano102 (15.0%)
iPad (8 inch)108 (15.8%)
Lil' iPad8 (1.2%)
Baby iPad4 (0.6%)
iPod touch HULK44 (6.5%)
iPad 711 (1.6%)
iPocket31 (4.5%)

Photo by sine-out on Flickr | cc

[hat tip iDownloadblog]

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