At a media event next week, Apple is expected to announce the third generation of its popular tablet computer. But the device will have to fight for market share among several tough competitors, as Hayley Tsukayama reports:

Kindle FireAmazon’s seven-inch tablet has a price advantage over the iPad, starting at $199 instead of Apple’s $499, as well as access to Amazon’s huge retail store.

Nook Tablet: Great for reading, the Nook Tablet’s screen is easier on the eyes than the iPad and, with its seven-inch form factor, easier to carry around.

Acer Iconia A500: This tablet has more memory than the iPad 2 and more ports, making it good for people who want to use their tablets in conjunction with other gadgets.

Asus Transformer: The Transformer line comes with a full QWERTY keyboard, making it much easier to type on for longer e-mails or short memos.

Could Apple be adding a new, smaller tablet to its suite of products? A recent report suggests that might be the case. Hayley Tsukayama writes:

The tablet market continues to grow, and one of the fastest-growing areas is with 7-inch tablets, aka the territory currently dominated by the Kindle Fire. But according to a recent report from the Taiwanese tech site Digitimes, Apple is getting serious about shrinking down its iPad to include a 7.35-inch model.

The report says that Apple will start producing the units in volume by the third quarter of 2012.

It’s important to note that Digitimes puts out reports based on information from its sources in Apple’s Asian supply chain, but not all of those reports turn out to be true. And there’s a lot that would suggest that Apple isn’t all that interested in a smaller tablet, since Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs,made no secret of his opposition to tablet screens smaller than the iPad’s 9.7 inches.

Meanwhile, no resolution has been reached yet in Apple’s dispute with Proview over the iPad trademark in China. Bloomberg News reports:

A lawyer representing Proview International Holdings Ltd. in its dispute with Apple Inc. over the iPad trademark in China said he hopes the U.S. company makes contact to begin settlement talks.

Roger Xie said the two sides haven’t held any formal negotiations over the issue of which company owns the right to use the iPad brand in the world’s most populous nation. Lawyers presented arguments for almost six hours yesterday at the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong before being asked by the three- judge panel if they wished to settle.

“Up to now, we didn’t have any formal negotiations with Apple,” Xie said in a telephone interview today. “I hope they will positively contact us and make an appointment with us about formal negotiations out of court. It would be useful.”

Apple has appealed a November ruling by a lower court that the trademark belongs to the Shenzhen unit of failed display maker Proview. Apple claims its 2009 purchase of the rights from Proview’s Taiwan unit covers the mainland.

Losing the appeal would open Apple to lawsuits seeking damages and enable a ban on iPad sales in the Cupertino, California-based company’s biggest market outside the U.S.

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