iPad mini in Apple testing tip supplier sources

Apple is testing smaller iPad models in a potential split of its tablet strategy that would see the existing 9.7-inch slate joined by a potentially 8-inch model, according to new leaks. The long-standing talk of a more bag-friendly Apple tablet has been reawakened by the WSJ, sources of which claim Apple is working with component suppliers to qualify possible displays, with both AUO and LG Display again cited as involved in the experiments.

The smaller iPad will have a screen resolution the same – or "similar" – to the existing iPad 2, or 1024 x 768, one source indicated. That would suggest Apple was sticking with the 4:3 aspect ratio, sensible given iPad apps are currently designed for that. Similar rumors – citing the same suppliers – broke last October, with a 7.85-inch screen size tipped.

However, while the supplier insiders say Apple has been showing potential designs for the new tablet around suppliers, it's also pointed out that such product flirtation isn't unusual: and, it often doesn't amount to a commercial device. Although the company has been slow and steady with its iPhone range, sticking to a single "flagship" device at any one time and keeping older models on the market to satisfy lower price points, Apple is supposedly considering an iPod-style strategy with tablets where different models would address different use-cases.

If true, the new "iPad mini" would be another example of Apple dismissing a product category before subsequently entering it. Steve Jobs memorably blasted 7-inch and similar tablets as "tweeners" back in October 2010, arguing that their scale "isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps" and suggesting that such models should include sandpaper so that users could file their fingers down to a usable size.

"Apple has long contemplated different tablet designs" the WSJ's sources say, though again there's no guarantee that contemplation will lead to production. Nonetheless, even with a third-gen iPad expected on March 7, this looks to be a rumor that won't die any time soon.