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Bloomberg: Smaller iPad to launch by year's end

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Amid the flurry of rumors surrounding a possible smaller format iPad release, Bloomberg on Tuesday claimed inside knowledge of Apple plans to roll out the device by the end of 2012.

Coming off an earlier report from the Far East regarding an IGZO display-sporting 7.85-inch iPad, Bloomberg cited two unnamed sources with knowledge of the launch plans who claim Apple will be debuting a 7- to 8-inch iPad later this year to maintain market dominance in light of heated competition from Microsoft's Surface and a litany of Android-based devices like Google's Nexus 7.

One of the sources said that an announcement may be made in October, the same month analysts see as a likely window for the debut of Apple's next-generation iPhone. The company's upcoming iOS 6 mobile operating system is also expected to hit iDevices during the fall timeframe.

Another source notes that the smaller, cheaper iPad will not feature a high-resolution screen like its big brother and the new MacBook Pro with Retina display though the rumor has yet to be verified.

Apple's iPad with Retina display. | Source: Apple

According to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, a more affordable iPad would undermine recent attempts at would-be competitors that hoped to eat into Apple formidable marketshare with attractively priced offerings. Currently the cheapest iPad configuration is the legacy 16GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi which sells for $399 through Apple's Online Store.

“It would be the competitors’ worst nightmare,” Wu said. “The ball is in Apple’s court.”

Amazon had limited but unprecedented success against the iPad when it released the moderately-priced Kindle Fire in 2011 though recent data shows that sales of the device have slowed.

Microsoft is looking to take a bite out of Apple's share of the tablet market with its Windows 8-based Surface which is set for release this fall. While no official announcement has been made regarding availability, analysts see aggressive pricing as key to the tablet's success.

On the lower end, Google announced its Asus-built Nexus 7, a small-format tablet situated in direct competition of a possible 7-inch iPad.