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) --



will be putting on its best and brightest as it's expected to unveil the

iPad Mini this week

. Expectations are incredibly high for the small tablet, almost at fever pitch.

The iPad already has a dominant market share in the tablet market, owning 68% of it, according to


The iPad Mini, which is expected to come in at 7.85-inches, is an attempt to boost that market share further, even as competitors like






, and

Barnes & Noble


nip at Apple's heels.

The smaller iPad could not only be big for the tablet market, but consumers and investors as well. "Like other products, lower price points tend to drive sales. An iPad Mini we think would likely drive incremental iPad buyers," said Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu in a recent phone interview with


. "There's going to be some cannibalism of iPad sales, but we think it makes a lot of sense." Wu rates Apple shares at buy with price target of $840.

Channing Smith, portfolio manager at

Capital Advisors Growth Fund

, said a smaller iPad should give Apple a leg up over the competition, particularly as the holiday season approaches. "It's a powerful one-two punch with the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini," Smith said in a recent phone interview. "It sets them up very well for the holiday season."


plans to live-blog the event, which is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. ET Oct. 23 at the 1122-seat California Theater in San Jose, Calif.

Consumers are likely to benefit, as the smaller iPad is expected to price substantially lower than the iPad, which starts at $499, and the iPad 2, which starts at $399. Noted Apple blogger John Gruber expects the device to

price at



recently polled readers asking them how much they expect the device to cost, with 30% of those


expecting Apple to charge $349 as the starting price.

I'm in the camp that Apple will likely charge $299 for the device, the same as the iPod Touch. I think the smaller iPad (notice I don't refer to it as iPad Mini constantly, as I believe Apple could change the name) may wind up cannibalizing iPod Touch sales almost as much as it cannibalizes iPad sales.

Some have speculated that Apple could charge as much as $649 for the high-end version, though that's difficult to see as it would likely cut into iPad sales more than Wall Street is already expecting. Some are expecting the new tablet to have 4G capability, running on networks from






, though that hasn't been confirmed yet.

Outside of the 7.85-inch screen and lower price point, the iPad Mini is expected to be very similar to the larger iPad. That's what makes me think we could see a name like the iPad Air, or iPad Light. The name needs to be something to differentiate it from the 9.7-inch iPad, and I'm not sure iPad Mini will do that. We'll have to wait until Tuesday to find out.

Many believe Apple will put the new iPad up for pre-order right away with the product officially

going on sale Nov. 2.

Apple is placing a big bet on the device as the company is reported to have to ordered the production of up to 10 million units for the fourth quarter, according to some Asian component suppliers.

One of Apple's Asian suppliers,

AU Optronics


, is getting ready to ship 4 million panels for the iPad Mini in the fourth quarter, according to



Apple is likely to announce several new products at next week's event, including a

Mac Mini

, MacBook Pro and perhaps a new iMac.

Whether you're an investor or a consumer (or both), the hype is at record levels.

See you all on Tuesday.

Interested in more on Apple? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for

this stock



Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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