Apple's top partners are gearing up for an October launch date of the rumoured iPad Mini.
Apple Premium Resellers (APRs) expect the miniature device to be priced at about £199 to compete with big-selling 7in tablets such as the Google Nexus and Amazon's Kindle Fire.
A flurry of communications from Asian case manufacturers to the APRs has stoked speculation that the device could be announced on 12 September – the same day as the expected unveil of the iPhone 5 – or shortly thereafter.
"We are now getting four or five emails a day from suppliers saying they have cases available for the iPad Mini that are ready for distribution in September," said one APR, who wished to remain anonymous.
"It would not surprise me if Apple wanted to get into the £199 price point to compete with Google, Amazon and Samsung as it is not currently playing there."
The prevailing wisdom is that the iPad Mini will be showcased to press on 12 September, although some bloggers have questioned whether Apple will want it to share the stage with the next generation of its flagship iPhone device.
However, the APR said he expected it to be a big draw, both as a kids' Christmas gift and as a device for business staff on the go. It is set to use the same dock connector as the new iPhone 5, he added.
Unlike the original iPad, but in common with iPad 2 and the new iPad, the iPad Mini is expected to go into general distribution from the off, rather than being sold exclusively through Apple's own stores, APRs and a couple of big retailers for a 60-day period.
Jeremy Davies, founder of analyst Context, questioned how a smaller version of the iPad would gel with late Apple founder Steve Jobs' strategy of doing a limited number of form factors well.
"Apple does need to diversify its lines and broaden its appeal so it can compete with Samsung," he said. "But although this makes commercial sense, it would dilute Steve Jobs' mantra."
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