iPad 3 watch: Is Apple readying a 'tweener' tablet?

An analyst with a strong track record of predicting new Apple products says Apple has a new device in the works with a screen size that falls somewhere in between that of the iPhone and iPad.

Apple Insider reports that Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has described an iOS device in the works for release in the second half of the year, and other reports say the screen size could be about 5 or 6 inches – putting it squarely in between the 9.7-inch iPad screen and 3.5-inch iPhone screen.

Apple watchers say it’s unlikely Apple would roll out a tablet computer -- or "iPad mini" -- with a 6-inch screen in light of disparaging remarks made by Apple chief Steve Jobs about small tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, last fall ("We think the current crop of tablets will be DOA, dead on arrival," said Jobs. "They’ll learn the screens are too small and increase the size next year, while the old ones will be orphan products.").

Delivering a 6-inch screen on a big iPod touch focused on gaming and multimedia apps would get around Apple offering such a product technically labeled a tablet itself.

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Kuo also tells Apple Insider to expect an iPad 3 with double the screen resolution (2048 x 1536) of current models. The so-called Retina screen style had been expected initially for the iPad 2, but supply issues reportedly have made that undoable. Recent iPad 3 speculation has focused on new features such as HD capabilities and support for Version 5.1 of Apple iOS.

Meanwhile, Apple hasn’t yet even announced an iPad 2, though reports are that the company has started to crank them out and will be announcing something shortly.

Explosive iPad sales have boosted Apple to the #3 position worldwide in PC sales -- if you count tablets as PCs -- according to the latest numbers from research firm Canalys. Apple said it sold 7.33 million iPads during its most recently reported fiscal quarter.

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