Everyone seems to want a small tablet these days. It’s funny how these kinds of trends just seemingly pop up out of nowhere, isn’t it? After all, it wasn’t too long ago that the smaller tablets out there weren’t given much attention at all. The only two that come to mind that got any kind of time in the limelight are the BlackBerry PlayBook from Research In Motion, and Amazon's Kindle Fire. (Even Barnes & Noble's nook kind of took a backseat, as marketing pushed it back to being an eReader more than anything else.). All the other ones? Lost within the shadow of the iPad and its 9.7-inch display. Still, there are bigger ones out there, too, which just reinforces the idea that not too long ago everyone wanted a tablet with a big enough display to get things done.

But, as I’ve speculated in the past, the size of a tablet can indeed dictate the device’s function long before it reaches the owner’s hands. A 7-inch tablet can be used for creating things, but it’s obvious its main reason for existing is to consume media. It’s portable, and it’s just easy to hold while you watch your favorite movie, or read a book. If you want to consume as much media as you can, in an easily accessible way, then a 7-inch tablet is the best way to do that.

Which is why it isn’t all that surprising that rumors about Apple launching a smaller iPad this year are starting to pick up. Now that Barnes & Noble has their 7-inch nook out in the wild, and Amazon’s the center of its own hype machine with talks of another Kindle Fire coming down the pipe, it would only take the addition of a brand new 7-inch tablet to get people talking about what Apple may do next. That’s where the Nexus 7 by ASUS comes in.

There has been talk of a smaller iPad for some time now, but it hasn’t been all that consistent like it is now. Whether you want to speculate on if it has anything to do with the release of the Nexus 7 or not is up to you, but ignoring the timing is probably a bit hard. If Apple is indeed getting ready to launch a smaller tablet, then it has some pretty stiff competition to go up against.

But beyond that, there are some devices in its own family tree it has to think about.

The iPod Touch. A device that, for all intents and purposes, fills the gap for anyone out there who can’t get their hands on an iPhone. I know, I know, it sounds crazy that someone can’t get an iPhone, but it happens. The iPod Touch fills that gap perfectly, considering that it is pretty much an iPhone without the cellular connectivity. Apple has worked hard on making sure that the iPod Touch has the same features that the iPhone has, and the iPod Touch sells like hotcakes.

So would Apple kill the device in favor of something with a larger display, but that’s smaller and “more portable” than the iPad? I doubt it. I asked the question on Twitter while I was writing this article, and the replies I got were pretty standard:

If Apple launches a smaller iPad, then it will probably come with a price tag that sits somewhere between $200 and $300, maybe $250 for an 8GB model. The first question that comes to your head should be, “Why would I pay an extra $50 for the same amount of storage, and (reportedly) only a bump of .85-inches in display size?” The answer from Apple would be easy enough: Retina Display and iTunes.

I don’t think Apple is going to kill the iPod Touch, mainly because it still sells, and a 7-inch tablet isn’t going to fill that gap that the iPod Touch fills. Yes, 7-inches make for a portable media device, no doubt about it, but it isn’t as portable as a 3.5-inch device. Or even a 4-inch device, if Apple decides to bump up the display size like the reported new iPhone. The iPod Touch is, literally, the perfect device for those who can’t get the iPhone – the mini iPad would not be.

So will Apple kill the iPod Touch rather than create a new version of the device this year? I guess it’s perfectly possible, but I just don’t see it happening. In my head, if the Cupertino-based company is going to launch a smaller version of the iPad, it will be priced “significantly less” than $499 for the cheapest model, but fit somewhere snugly between the current iPad and the iPod Touch.

$200 for the new iPod Touch, base model. $250 for the mini iPad, base model. Then $50 increases for a bump in memory between each model after that. That pricing structure could get people to actually sway towards the smaller iPad, in some situations where that would be feasible for the owner.

What do you think? Do you think Apple will kill the iPod Touch? Should Apple remove the iPod Touch from the i-device family tree? Or do you think they’ll keep releasing the personal media players for the foreseeable future? Let me know, Dear Reader, what you think!


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