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Apple Set to Disappoint Those Hoping for a 7-Inch iPad in 2012

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One obvious trend in the tablet market this holiday season was the popularity of 7-inch tablets. With Apple (AAPL) slowing down production of the iPad 2 and Amazon (AMZN) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) unleashing the Kindle Fire and Nook respectively, shipments of 7-inch display panels grew by 17% in November to surpass those of 9.7-inch displays in November.
With the growth of the 7-inch tablet market, there was speculation last week that Apple will launch its own 7-inch iPad – an iPad mini, if you will – come 2012. However, Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair tells us not to hold out hopes for a smaller iPad next year.
“Don’t expect a 7-incher,” Blair tells All Things Digital. “While we believe Apple has tested 7-inch screen prototypes for over a year, we don’t currently expect the company to release anything in the 7-inch size in 2012.”
Blair observes us that Steve Jobs was never a fan of the 7-inch display, having notoriously announced in 2010 that they would be “dead on arrival,” because they were too small for apps to properly function and flourish.
“We believe Apple is highly likely to keep the iPad 2 on the production line after the launch of iPad 3 and offer it at a lower price point in an effort to address demand at the mid-tier, what we view as the $249 to $499 range. We believe iPad 2′s price could drop to the $349 to $399 range with Apple offering a single 16GB model,” Blair asserts.
On the bright side, after a year without any significant changes in its product line-up, Apple fans should be able to look forward to some splashy upgrades in the iPhone 5 and the iPad 3.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.