Updated from 9:47 a.m. EST to provide additional comments regarding prospects for Apple's stock in the tenth and twelfth paragraphs.
NEW YORK (
) -- If you needed anymore proof that an iPad Mini exists, you're about to get it.
is reportedly getting ready to announce its iPad Mini soon.
The Wall Street Journal
that Apple's Asian suppliers have started production on the 7.85-inch tablet, which is rumored to be announced later this month. Apple may send out invitations as soon as Oct. 10 for the event, with the actual announcement coming Oct. 17.
With Apple announcing so many products this year (iPhone 5, new Macs, new iPad and now an iPad Mini), what does the new tablet mean for investors?
It could be big for investors, said Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu. "Like other products, lower price points tend to drive sales. An iPad Mini we think would likely drive incremental iPad buyers," Wu said in a phone interview with
. "There's going to be some cannibalism of iPad sales, but we think it makes a lot of sense." Wu rated Apple shares buy with price target of $840.
The smaller tablet may also be slightly thinner than the iPad 2, and have a similar thickness to the iPod Touch. It's also possible that Apple includes its new A6 chip, which is in the iPhone 5, or may use the A5X, which is in the new iPad.
Given cost constraints, it's possible that the smaller device will not have Long Term Evolution (LTE) capabilities or Retina Display, but
President Eric Jackson doesn't think that will be a big deal.
"Selling more units equals more profits, which should be a boost to the stock," Jackson said in an email to
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said there wasn't a market for a 7-inch tablet, that the reason Apple wouldn't make it is because "...we think the screen is too small to express the software." However, recent internal documents showed that Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, argued for a smaller tablet in early 2011, as there was shown to be a market for it.
Competitors have had modest success, Wu noted. "
with its Nexus 7 is having decent success," and may sell mid-millions before year-end.
also refreshed its Kindle tablet line, recently announcing a
One hedge fund analyst, who declined to be named, said that an iPad Mini would hurt Amazon and
Barnes & Noble
more than it would help Apple. "It
the iPad Mini allows them to compete with the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire, and the new NOOKs. "This could be a blow to Amazon, and at the same time, take market share from Barnes & Noble."
The iPad has 68% of the tablet market, according to
, and a smaller iPad would allow Apple to continue to grab even more market share as its competitors nip at its heels on the lower end.
Channing Smith, portfolio manager at
Capital Advisors Growth Fund
, said the prospect of an iPad Mini bodes well for Apple in the coming months. "It's a powerful one-two punch with the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini," Smith said over the phone. "It sets them up very well for the holiday season."
A smaller tablet would no doubt be less pricey, and that could help Apple expand its presence beyond its core customers, especially as China continues to play a larger role in the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's future.
In a recent analyst note, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White said an iPad Mini would expand Apple's reach to price-sensitive customers and that 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.
While it's uncertain about when the iPad Mini is coming at this point, one thing is very clear: When it does come, it's going to drive sales. That should be music to shareholders' ears.
Interested in more on Apple? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for
Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York