Apple announced Tuesday that it has scheduled an event for Oct. 23, at which it is widely expected to introduce a smaller version of the iPad, dubbed the "iPad mini."
The "iPad mini" is believed to be a seven-or-so-inch tablet with a sub-$300 price tag. Apple's(AAPL) current iPad lineup starts at $399 for the year-old iPad 2 and $499 for the third-generation iPad, both of which have a near-10-inch screen.
Only Amazon(AMZN), with its Kindle Fire, has made even a dent in the tablet space. Google(GOOG), with its Nexus 7, could also be a contender, but shipment figures for its device haven't yet been released. Both the Kindle and the Nexus tablets have seven-inch screens and are priced at $199.
Though neither has enjoyed the success of the iPad, they seem to have sold enough to get Apple's attention. Apple(AAPL) could potentially stomp out the competition by making a low-cost, seven-inch tablet of its own in the form of the iPad mini.
Amazon's $199 tablet costs $148 in parts
It's an idea Apple has toyed with for several years.
Among the many internal documents made public in Apple's patent battle with Samsung was a January 2011 e-mail from Eddy Cue, Apple's head of software and services, in which he told management: "I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one."
Jobs seemed "receptive" to the idea, he said.
That marked a turnaround from Jobs' initial stance. Apple's chief visionary famously trashed seven-inch tablets, calling them so small, they should include sandpaper, "so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size."