Apple's iPad Mini may have just been upgraded from rumor to fact.
According to the Wall Street Journal, component suppliers in Asia are apparently prepping for the mass production of an Apple tablet with a smaller screen than the current iPad.
Although Cupertino has yet to confirm the existence of an iPad Mini, the WSJ reported back in May that Apple was testing such a device but hadn't yet decided whether to proceed with production.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg says the iPad Mini will lack the high-end retina display of Apple's current-gen tablet, while featuring a screen that measures 7-8 inches diagonally.
As analyst Shawn Wu points out, a smaller, less expensive iPad will undoubtedly threaten the tablet ambitions of Google (Nexus 7), Microsoft (Windows Surface) and Amazon (Kindle Fire). Indeed, the iPad Mini will probably be priced close to Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire, both of which boast a 7-inch screen and weigh in at a very reasonable $199.
"It would be the competitors' worst nightmare. The ball is in Apple's court," Wu opined. "[Remember], this isn't like the old days, when it cost thousands of dollars more to buy an Apple product. Fifty or a hundred bucks wouldn't be enough to make someone switch."
The latest iPad Mini report from the Wall Street Journal comes just days after analysts at Pacific Crest said they expected Apple to launch a 7.85-inch table in October.
"We anticipate an entry-level 7.85-inch iPad with 8GB of NAND capacity to price at $299 with an initial gross margin of 31%. We estimate Apple will sell 10.0 million 7.85-inch iPads in FQ1 (Dec.) and 35.2 million in all of F2013," the analysts wrote in a recent industry note.
"Based on estimated component order volume, we believe our iPad mini unit estimates are well within Apple's production capacity. We anticipate 25% cannibalization of the larger 9.7-inch iPad (for every four 7.85-inch iPads added, we reduced our 9.7-inch iPad estimate by one), so our total F2013 iPad estimate increases to 91.6 million from 65.2 million."