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Court document reveals Jobs was "receptive" to idea of iPad Mini

The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was publicly dismissive of tablets smaller than his company's best-selling iPad, but in private he "seemed very receptive" to the possibility of Apple making a 7in tablet, according to an internal company email revealed during Apple's landmark patent trial with Samsung.

Introduced during Samsung's cross-examination of Apple iOS chief Scott Forstall on Friday, the email from Apple executive Eddy Cue to Forstall and other top Apple execs refers to what Cue says were several discussions with Jobs about a 7in Apple tablet. Cue's email also includes a forwarded article by a journalist who wrote that he had switched from the iPad to Samsung's 7in Galaxy Tab.

"Having used a Samsung Galaxy [Tab], I tend to agree with many of the comments below," Cue's 24 January, 2011 email read, according to The Verge and other media outlets present at the federal courtroom in San Jose, California. "I believe there will be a 7in market and we should do one. I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time."

At the time of the email, Cue was running Apple's iTunes and App Store but was named senior vice president of Internet software and services last September. The recipients included Forstall, current CEO Tim Cook, and marketing chief Phil Schiller.

Apple is currently rumoured to be planning a 7-inch tablet for possible release later this year, but back in January 2011, Jobs — and by extension, Apple — was very much on the record as having nothing but complete disdain for tablet devices smaller than the nearly 10in iPad.

Jobs even made an atypical appearance on an Apple earnings call in October 2010 to declare "the current crop of 7in tablets ... DOA: Dead on Arrival." Among his complaints about smaller tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Tab: their smaller screen sizes weren't sufficient to create great tablet apps, and even if display resolution was increased to compensate, "it's meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size."

"Apple has done extensive user testing on user interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff," he added.

Cue's email contends that at the time Jobs was saying these things publicly, he was in fact "very receptive" to a 7in tablet. Whether that's an accurate reflection of Jobs' mindset is probably something that can't be proven one way or the other. Also unclear is how this bit of evidence affects Apple's legal claim that Samsung copied its iPad illegally.

What the email does show, however, is that at the time Apple was bashing smaller tablets in public, at least some folks inside the company thought it might be a pretty good idea to make one.