If the reports are correct, the mini pad will go on sale around October, presumably for less than the $399 entry price of the 10-inch iPad.
Steve Jobs famously dismissed smaller tablets are a bad idea, saying that they should come with sandpaper so people can sand their fingers down to use them. But that was before Amazon found traction with its Kindle Fire and Google jumped in with its 7-inch Nexus Android tablet.
A fall launch would also give Apple a chance to steal some thunder from Microsoft’s launch of WIndows 8 and its larger Surface tablets.
Although Microsoft’s first branded computers are completely different products, some consumers and pundits will no doubt lump them in the same category as 7-inch web tablets.
In the meantime, Amazon’s expected to release a new version of the Fire with a higher resolution screen later this month.