The tech companies are at it again — trying to catch the blockbuster iPad in a race to win the tablet market.
Google on Friday began shipping its Nexus 7, which is smaller and less expensive than Apple’s iPad, and is meant to compete with both that device and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
This summer, Microsoft announced that it would create its own tablet, Surface.
And Amazon is working on a new version of the Kindle Fire, with a larger display, that could compete more directly with the iPad, according to a developer briefed on Amazon’s plans who did not want to be identified.
Analysts also believe that Amazon is updating the Kindle Fire. Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment.
But Apple is hardly about to cede ground.
The company is developing a new tablet with a 7.9-inch screen that is likely to sell for significantly less than the latest $499 iPad, with its 9.7-inch display, according to several people with knowledge of the project who declined to be named.
The product is expected to be announced this year.
Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Apple’s plan for a tablet with a smaller screen is part of a textbook business strategy: to lure customers who want different sizes of tablets into the iPad product family, say analysts and technology industry executives.
The strategy would most likely include devices with different prices and functions tailored to various uses, they say.
The idea is to help Apple solidify its dominance in the tablet market even as the richest companies in the tech business are trying to figure out how to outflank Apple.
Leslie Grandy, a former Apple manager who is now a consultant and an adviser to start-up companies, says a smaller iPad could be especially appealing to people who do not now carry their iPads with them because they are too large and heavy.
While a seven-inch device is too big for pants pockets, Grandy said, it is a good size for women’s purses. “I really do feel like this is the sweet spot for them,” Grandy said.
Apple’s share of the tablet market is 60 to 70% depending on the company doing the estimating. As many people in the tech industry have pointed out, the “tablet market” is really a misnomer. For the time being, it is an iPad market.
A decision to make a smaller iPad would be a clear break with Apple’s past.
Not long after the original iPad came out, Steven P Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, memorably dismissed the seven-inch tablets then entering the market, saying they should be sold with sandpaper so that users could whittle their fingertips down to fine points.