iPad with 7-inch screen to debut in 2012: report

The iPad 3 is expected to hit shelves next year. But Apple may also be prepping a smaller-version of its tablet computer. 

An iPad 3 is expected to hit shelves in early 2012. Here, the Apple iPad 2.

The iPad 3 is coming, probably, in the first quarter of 2012. That's the consensus in the tech world this week, and although the scuttlebutt is strictly speculative – and although Apple has not yet officially confirmed the existence of its next-generation tablet – there's good reason to believe a new iPad will hit shelves by March. 

Now, reports seem to point toward two iPad 3 devices in 2012? According to DigiTimes, a well-sourced Taiwanese newspaper, Apple is prepping a pair of tablets, one with a traditional display, and another with a smaller, 7.85-inch screen. (That's about half the size of today's iPad.) The full-sized iPad 3, DigiTimes reports, will arrive early in 2012, while the second – the smaller version – will arrive by the end of next year. 

"[I]n order to cope with increasing market competition including the 7-inch Kindle Fire from Amazon and the launch of large-size smartphones from handset vendors, Apple has been persuaded into the development of 7.85-inch iPads, sources indicated," relays the DigiTimes team. "[M]akers in the supply chain are likely to begin production of the 7.85-inch models at the end of the second quarter of 2012," DigiTimes added. 

Traditional caveat applies: This is sheer rumor, although it's from a good source. DigiTimes is usually pretty reliable, and it does make sense that Apple would want to counter the emergence of smaller tablets, such as the Fire, with its own stripped-down machine. 

As we noted earlier this week, the iPad 3 – the one (probably) shipping in the first quarter of next year – is expected to get an HD display, possibly with more than double the resolution of the previous model. "[T]here do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining," to a better display, Citi analyst Richard Gardner recently wrote in a note to investors. 

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