Apple rumored to launch with 6M of sub-$300 'iPad mini' this year

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A new report out of China claims Apple is gearing up to build 6 million units of a new, smaller iPad to launch in the third quarter of 2012.

The new device will be priced at either $249 or $299, according to Chinese net portal NetEase, as translated by Kotaku. The device is said to be intended to "counter attack" upcoming tablets running Windows 8.

In addition to Foxconn, which is Apple's regular device assembler, Pegatron is also said to be in the supply chain for the anticipated smaller iPad. Together, they will reportedly assemble a planned 6 million units for launch.

One report earlier this month from writer John Gruber claimed that Apple is "noodling with" ideas and prototypes for a new, smaller 7.85-inch iPad. However, he added that it is not clear if the device will ever see the light of day.

If the so-called "iPad mini" is priced as low as $249, it would be positioned to compete with the Amazon Kindle Fire, which has taken control of the low end of the tablet market since it launched for $199 late last year.

The new, smaller iPad reportedly has a 7.85-inch screen with a resolution of 1,024 by 768. That would allow the device to run applications written for the first-generation iPad and iPad 2 natively, without a need for developers to rewrite them to work at a new resolution. The height of such a device would be roughly the same width as the current iPad.

Reports of an "iPad mini" have persisted since the original iPad launched in April 2010. Reports out of Apple's supply chain in the Far East have been the chief source of claims about a 7-inch iPad.

Speculation on an iPad with a smaller form factor picked up steam in February when The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple officials have been showing off designs for a smaller tablet that has a similar screen resolution as the iPad 2. The report did caution, though, that Apple could be simply testing new designs and might not actually release the device.