CUPERTINO, Calif. (TheStreet) -- Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) may be planning to launch a low-price "mini" iPad in early 2012, according to Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White, who says that the tablet could present a challenge for Amazon's (Stock Quote: AMZN) new Kindle Fire.

"Our research is pointing to the unveiling of a lower-priced iPad in first few months of 2012," White explained in a note. "That is aimed at expanding the company's market potential by tapping into a more price sensitive consumer segment."

"Essentially, this 'iPad mini' will also fend off the recently announced Amazon Kindle Fire that addresses the low-end tablet market with a $199 price tag," he wrote.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos aimed some careful digs at Apple's iPad during the Kindle Fire launch earlier this month. The Internet giant, he explained, is "building premium products at non-premium prices."

Apple's cheapest iPad 2 is $499.

White, however, does not expect Apple to launch a smaller tablet than the 9.7-inch touchscreen iPad. "The 'mini' refers to a reduced price point of this iPad and not necessarily the size of the device," he said. "We believe this lower-priced iPad could be priced in the mid-to-high $200 range."

The low-price iPad will likely be followed by a more powerful, standard price iPad 3 in the second quarter of 2012, he added.

Apple has typically avoided offering cut-price versions of its products, although the gadget maker recently cut the price of its iPhone 4. The company also announced that its iPhone 3GS will be free with a two-year contract.

Up to this point, though, Apple has given no hints of lower-end tablets or changes to its iPad pricing. The consumer tech giant has already sold more than 28 million of the devices and enjoys a dominant position in the tablet space.

Shares of Apple rose $4.26, or 1.06%, to $406.45 on Thursday.

Apple declined to comment on this story when contacted by TheStreet.