The China Syndrome

Apple's competitors have been releasing smaller form-factor tablets as they try to take market share away from Apple, to no avail. Even Microsoft ( MSFT) has entered the tablet market with its Surface tablet, as it seeks to compete with Apple.

A smaller tablet would no doubt be less costly, and that could help Apple expand its presence, especially as China continues to play a larger role in the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's future.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White believes an iPad Mini would expand Apple's reach to price-sensitive customers and says some customers would likely enjoy the convenience of a smaller, lighter tablet. White also feels the education market would be "well suited" for a smaller iPad.

Channing Smith, portfolio manager at Capital Advisors Growth Fund, thinks the device could sell around $249 on the low end and notes it would give more consumers access to Apple's products.

"The iPad Mini expands Apple's addressable market worldwide, especially in developing markets where lower-priced products take the lion's share of the market share," said Smith, who disclosed that Apple is the largest holding in the Capital Advisors Growth Fund, in an email to TheStreet.

Analysts have begun to include the iPad Mini in their sales estimates, further adding credence to the rumor that the device is forthcoming. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a recent research report Apple could sell anywhere between 4 million and 6 million units of its rumored iPad Mini in the holiday quarter.

With analysts baking the device into sales projections, leaks from the supply chain, and various newspaper reports hinting at the device, it certainly looks like Apple is cooking up a smaller iPad. And given Apple's penchant for producing hits, this recipe could be as tasty as Mom's apple pie.

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-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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