For Apple fans, it looks like it's time to get (mini) excited.
Apple's suppliers have started final production on the so-called "iPad Mini" for an unveiling some time this month, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.
As previously rumored, the WSJ says that the smaller iPad -- which the Internet has taken to referring to as the "iPad Mini" for shorthand -- will be cheaper than the $499 iPad, in order to combat the likes of Google's $199 Nexus 7 and the new $199 Kindle Fire HD. Previous predictions have put it in the $250-$350 range.
The Journal also reiterates the previous rumors that the screen on the iPad Mini will measure 7.85-inches diagonally and will be of a lower resolution than the Retina display on the new iPad.
The Wall Street Journal isn't the first to report that the iPad Mini had begun mass production. The hit-or-miss Japanese Apple blog Macotakara claimed the same in an article published on Tuesday. The WSJ, however, has close ties to Apple (It won a coveted sit-down with CEO Tim Cook following the unveiling of OS X Mountain Lion, remember), and its reports have often offered reliable glimpses at future Apple products.
Backing up this most recent report, the WSJ-affiliated blog AllThingsD had previously "confirmed" that an iPad Mini would debut at a press event in October, so that it would not have to share the stage with the iPhone 5 at Apple's September event. The author of that piece, John Paczkowski, is also read as an accurate predictor of Apple product releases.
All of which is to say: We'll be very surprised if we don't see an iPad Mini by the end of October.
Some observers have cast doubt on whether the timing is right for Apple to release another product, just a month after putting out the iPhone 5. Apple generally waits at least three months between product releases, so as to not over-saturate the market, or wear out the public with its all-consuming media events. And, too, the company is riding a wave of negative PR and skepticism following the face-plant of its much-hyped iOS 6 Maps.
Perhaps, though, an iPad Mini could change the narrative. And, too, with the new Kindle Fires and NOOK HDs coming soon at lower price points than the $500 iPad, Apple is surely eager to introduce a cheaper tablet as soon as it can before the holiday rush (it's coming soon, people!) so that it can lock new tablet-buyers into the iOS ecosystem.
Strap on your seat belts, folks: Another autumn Apple event is looking more and more likely.