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Is Apple eyeing a 7.1-inch iPad?

The iPad maker is reportedly picking up parts for a 7.1-inch screen as a prelude to launching an iPad mini later this year.


Rumors have bounced around the past few months that Apple is readying a smaller version of its iPad. Now one report is pegging the actual size at 7.1 inches.

Apple is said to be buying screen parts for the tinier tablet, which is being slated for a possible launch later this year, according to inside information received by VentureBeat. If true, the intel differs slightly from recent reports claiming that an iPad mini would sport a 7.85-inch screen.

In the more immediate future, Apple is holding an iPad-related event today that's expected to bring the iPad 3.

Tune in to today's iPad live blog: Apple's March 7 iPad Event

As VentureBeat points out, an iPad with 7.85 inches of screen real estate is just two inches smaller than the current model's 9.7-inch display. So a 7-inch version seems to make more sense, especially since it would compete directly with similar-sized Android tablets, most notably Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Apple is said to be "particularly keen" on winning back market share captured by the Fire, says VentureBeat's source. Amazon lit up the holiday season by selling an estimated 6 million tablets, though Apple kept a firm lead with more than 15 million tablets sold.

The iPad grabbed a 57 percent chunk of the market during last year's final quarter, according to data from IHS iSuppli, while the Kindle was in second place with a 14 percent share.

Past information received by CNET and other sources said that an iPad mini would reach the market around the third quarter and sell for between $249 and $299. That compares with the $199 price tag for the Kindle.

An iPad mini would never have seen the light of day under Steve Jobs, as the late Apple leader dismissed the idea. But current CEO Tim Cook has shown an ability to think outside the box established by Jobs. So a smaller tablet is certainly a possibility, especially if Apple wants to reclaim some of the market share it's been losing to its Android competition.