An unidentified Samsung official has reportedly told the Korea Times that Apple is planning to release a smaller iPad, likely with a 7.85-inch screen, “by the end of this year.”

The official also told the newspaper that despite Apple and Samsung’s ongoing legal spat over patents, the Korean electronics giant is expecting its contract with Apple to hit $11 billion and is under agreement to provide Apple with products through 2014.

The head of Samsung’s memory unit recently said that he doesn’t believe that the patent cases would affect the two companies’ supply relationship, the report said.

Moving to a smaller iPad would be a departure for Apple and would also likely be seen as an attempt to head off competitors, who offer a larger variety of screen sizes. According to the latest figures from IDC Research, tablet shipments rose 56.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. Apple still held on to a market share lead despite slipping to around 55 percent of the market from 62 percent.

Tom Mainelli, the go-to tablet analyst at IDC, said in a release that Amazon’s new Kindle Fire raised awareness about the tablet category across the world.

“As a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple’s premium-priced iPads (which start at $499) to Pandigital’s line of Android-based, entry-level tablets (which start at $120),” Mainelli said.

The Kindle fire grabbed 16.8 percent of the market in the fourth quarter, earning it the second-place spot beind the iPad. Samsung — which recently said that it was not doing so well in the tablet market — grew slightly in the last quarter to 5.5 percent, while Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet grabbed 3.5 percent.

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