As we count down the days to next week's iPad 3 launch event, the rumor mill is already grinding on about the next shiny Apple gadget. Earlier this morning, DigiTimes reported that Apple's suppliers have started sending out verification samples of a 7.85" iPad model.
That fun-sized iPad is expected to hit production in the third quarter of this year "at the earliest," according to DigiTimes' unnamed industry sources. Those sources expect the device to be priced in the $249-299 range—as little as half the price of the base 10" iPad, in other words—and to compete against Amazon's Kindle Fire. (The Fire has a smaller, 7" display and sells for $199 right now.)
If this story sounds familiar, it's because DigiTimes posted another one almost just like it last December. At the time, though, the 7.85" iPad was expected to hit production in the late second quarter and to launch "prior to the fourth quarter of 2012." Today's report suggests the schedule has slipped somewhat, even if the device may still be on the way.