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7-in. tablet makers find some success bypassing competition with Apple's iPad

Rather than mimic the iPad's 9.7-inch screen, tablet makers have apparently found more success with the smaller 7-inch screen size —a form factor where Apple has indicated it has no plans to compete.

Touch panel makers are apparently most optimistic about sales of 7-inch tablets, according to DigiTimes. Despite this, most vendors are planning devices with 10.1-inch displays in an effort to more directly compete with the iPad.

"The sources pointed out that Korea-based Samsung Electronics' 7-inch Galaxy Tab and ViewSonic's 7-inch ViewPad are both generating stronger sales than their 10.1-inch models," the report said. "The 7-inch models are lower priced and avoid direct competition against Apple iPad.

"Although 10.1-inch tablet PCs will allow vendors to add keyboard support to their machines, their sales are still not as stable as the 7-inch models."

The report said that the 7-inch tablet market is set to experience "fierce competition," as none of the current players have been able to establish a dominant presence in the market. The first major product to market was Samsung's Galaxy Tab, which debuted to lukewarm reviews late last year. Another major player has been the Barnes and Noble Nook Color, another Android-powered device with a 7-inch screen that has reportedly estimated to sell 3 million units by the end of March.

Last year, Apple was rumored to be exploring an entrance into the 7-inch size range with a new, smaller iPad. But Chief Executive Steve Jobs quashed those rumors last October when he slammed 7-inch tablets as too small to be usable.

Still, as recently as February, rumors of a new device sized between the 9.7-inch iPad and 3.5-inch iPod touch. The product, speculated to be either a "Super iPhone or "iPad Mini," was said by one analyst to launch in the second half of 2011.