With Apple’s new iPad 3 reportedly only days away from being unveiled, the news swirling around the company has gone into overdrive: Apple is reportedly testing an even newer, smaller, 8 inch iPad, according to a report in the The Wall Street Journal Tuesday.
The Journal’s report cites unnamed officials at Apple’s suppliers in Asia, where its current iPad and iPhone models are assembled. The officials said that Apple “has shown them screen designs for a new device with a screen size of around 8-inches, and said it is qualifying suppliers for it.”
That coincides with an earlier rumor from the sporadically accurate Taiwanese tech news website DigiTimes, which in December 2011 said that Apple would launch a 7.85 inch screen iPad in the fourth quarter of 2012. The Journal’s report on Tuesday doesn’t specify when, if ever, the 8 inch screen model would hit the market.
To be clear, the model being tested is not the same device that Apple is expected to show off on Wednesday, March 7, which reportedly has the same screen size as its predecessors (the 9.7 inch iPad and iPad 2), but with an improved processor and 4G network connectivity.
The futuristic smaller iPad (iPad Nano?) would emulate Apple’s strategy with the iPod — releasing a number of different sized devices — and also allow Apple to compete more directly with some hot new Android competitors, namely Amazon’s Kindle Fire (7 inch screen) and Barnes and Nobles’ Nook Tablet (8.1 inches), both of which have seen brisk sales since being launched late in 2011, to coincide with the holiday shopping season.
However, at $199 and $249, respectively, both of those Android tablets are also priced considerably less than the cheapest new iPad 2, which costs $499. It’s unclear how much a new smaller, 8 inch screen iPad would cost.
Separately, the Associated Press reported late Monday that a Hong Kong-headquartered electronics company, Proview, is seeking a ban and seizure of all current iPads being imported and exported in 30 cities throughout the country.
Apple in November lost a trademark infringement case it filed against Proview in the Chinese city Shenzhen. Proview counter-sued for $1.5 billion, but says that the final damages amount had yet to be determined.
That ban hasn’t gone into effect yet, but authorities in at least two Chinese cities, Shijiazhuang and Xuzhou, have begun confiscating iPads from authorized Apple retailers, according to the Wall Street Journal Asia and the New York Times.
Other retail shops throughout the country have reportedly removed their iPads from the front of the store to back storerooms, fearing that they will too be confiscated, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.
Proview has also filed a separate case in Shanghai that is set to begin on February 22, Businessweek reported.
Apple argued it had purchased the rights to the name “iPad” from a Proview Taiwanese subsidiary for $55,000 in 2010, but the Shenzhen patent court disagreed that those rights included China.
Apple’s spokespeople have continued to assert the Cupertino, California-based company’s rights to the “iPad” name:
“We bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago. Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China,” Apple Beijing spokeswoman Carolyn Wu told the Associated Press.
Apple has appealed the Shenzhen court’s ruling, but needs to settle soon, as a ban on Chinese exports of the iPad, where the device is assembled, would be “catastrophic” for the company, IP lawyer Stan Abrams told Bloomberg Businessweek.