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How many times have we heard about a smaller Apple iPad?

A Google search turns up 114 million hits, but that couldn’t be right. Could it?

Image: Techmeme

Wall Street Journal
was getting a lot of play Tuesday morning with a report out of Taiwan that Apple (AAPL), to “broaden its product pipeline” and respond to “intensifying competition,” was testing a new smaller tablet with a screen size of about 8 inches.

Color us skeptical.

First of all, we don’t sense that Apple is feeling much pressure from Samsung or Amazon (AMZN), the two competitors mentioned in the Journal‘s report. Samsung’s share of the global tablet market in Q3 2011 was 5.6%, according to IDC, just ahead of Hewlett-Packard’s (HPC) abandoned TouchPad (5%) and way behind Apple’s 61.5%.

Amazon, meanwhile, is reportedly losing money with every Kindle Fire it sells.

Second, the mantra at Apple is to keep the product pipeline narrow and consumer choice simple. Why would it want to add complication to a market it already owns?

Finally, Apple tested a lot of screen sizes before it settled on the 9.7-inch form that Steve Jobs declared “the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.”

Asked about a 7-inch Pad during a 2010 earnings call, Jobs replied:

“It’s meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size.” (link)

That hasn’t stopped the tech press from speculating. We’ve seen reports that Apple was working on iPads with 6-inch screens, 7-inch screens, 7.85-inch screens and, now, 8-inch screens.

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” says Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber.

Neither would I.