Along with the mythical iTV, a smaller iPad is perhaps Apple's most heavily-rumored device right now — and Bloomberg is saying this afternoon that it's coming with a launch date in 2012, just in time to put a damper on the Nexus 7's plans. The new model would allegedly fall somewhere between 7 and 8 inches (compared to the current model's 9.7) and not feature a Retina display, an omission that's sure to keep the price down. Apple may be targeting an October launch, the story reports.
It's obvious why Apple might be taking an interest in this space: the 7-inch Kindle Fire has essentially emerged as the only successful Android tablet thus far, proving that there's a market for small, cheap tablets that the 9.7-inch iPad simply doesn't fit into (and certainly not at $500 and up). Apple has a reputation for avoiding markets where it can't keep the product's standards in line with its brand image — famously avoiding netbooks for years before launching the higher-end Air range — so it's reasonable to assume that any 7-inch iPad is going to be an attractive product with some aluminum involved.