Apple Looking at 7.85-inch iPad Mini for Early 2012

Apple is looking at releasing a mini version of the iPad early next year and has already been provided with mini display samples by two suppliers, according to the Economic Daily News.

The Taiwanese publication reports that Apple ordered samples from two suppliers: Korean LG Display and Taiwanese AU Optronics. Both companies sent 7.85 inch displays for the smaller tablet to Cupertino, with the same resolution as the iPad 2.

Analysts were already speculating, even before this new piece of information, about how Apple was going to respond to Amazon's Kindle Fire, and many had predicted we'd soon see a smaller cheaper iPad. Although it could be said the Kindle Fire is meant for entry-level users and does not offer the same tablet experience as the iPad, the much more consumer friendly pricing and Amazon's vast ecosystem and retail prowess, makes it a real threat to Apple's tablet.

On the other hand, Apple holds 97% of the tablet market at the moment and its superiority won't be threatened in the short term. The market is still young and Apple may be trying to explore some different options. A smaller tablet will not only be more affordable due to the smaller display, but will also be more portable.

Industry observers expect Apple to make its next move on the tablet market early next year, with the release of iPad 3 and/or iPad mini.