Would an iPad Mini Take a Bite Out of Apple?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) may well release an iPad Mini after all. If this happens, it could be the first major product change of the Tim Cook era.

Both The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg report that Apple is readying a smaller version of its popular iPad. Some have questioned whether an iPad Mini would confuse consumers or perhaps "tarnish the brand". Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, for example, was against the 7-inch tablet form-factor, calling it "dead on arrival."

On a 2010 earnings call, Jobs said, "One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. ... The reason we won't make a 7-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit a lower price point, it's because we think the screen is too small to express the software."

Consumers, however, have proven there is a market for 7-inch tablets, although the iPad continues to dominate the tablet space, with 68% of the market, according to IDC.

Amazon's ( AMZN) Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's ( BKS) Nook are both 7-inch tablets, and Google's ( GOOG) new Nexus tablet is also 7 inches.

Microsoft's ( MSFT) new Surface tablet in contrast, is 10.6 inches, larger than the iPad.

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