I found it vaguely suspicious when rumors of a 7" iPad surged right after the Android-running Nexus 7 started garnering rave reviews. It just seemed like those rumors were perfectly timed to cause people to take a 'wait and see' attitude before they purchased an N7.
But perhaps my paranoia was getting the better of me, because it's seeming more and more likely that the 'iPad Mini' is both real and has been in development for quite some time. A few new pieces of evidence cropped up in the past few days.
The first was the posting of purported images of the rear shell of the tablet. MacRumors picked these images up from a Chinese site and apparently the source isn't an established leaker so...take them with a grain of salt. Personally I'm not sure how you'd tell these pieces were from a 7" tablet with no frame of reference.
The other evidence, though, comes from the Apple vs Samsung trial that's going on now. During the cross-examination of Apple's head of iOS software Scott Forstall, an email from the company's head of Internet Software and Services Eddie Cue was shared. In it Cue says he believes there will be a viable 7" tablet market and that Apple "should do one." CNet has more details.
So at least some Apple execs think they should do a 7" iPad and a questionable source in China shares images of what he claims is part of the shell of such an iPad. The most recent rumored announcement date I've heard is September 12. All the pundits seem to accept that there will be an Apple event on that day, though some suggest it'll just be for an iPhone 5 with an iPad Mini announcement to follow later. The optimists say both the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini will be announced at that event and will be released to consumers on September 21st.
Assuming this is a real product, the next puzzle is how much it will cost. $199-$249 seems to be the sweet spot for 7" tablets (witness the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet and Nexus 7) but Apple sells the iPod Touch at $199.
It could drop the price of the Touch (or drop the Touch altogether in favor of an iPad Mini) or it could launch its 7" tablet at $299. That might make more sense for the long-term health of the iPad product line. If a 7" iPad is available for $199 it makes the $499 current iPad seems really expensive. A jump from $199 for the Touch to $299 for the Mini and to $499 for the full-sized iPad seems more logical.
It'll be interesting to see if any more solid info gets squeezed out of the Apple/Samsung trial this week. I do think Apple has to get this thing out pretty soon; the Nexus 7 seems to be doing awfully well right now and Apple won't want to cede that market to an Android device.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.