The days when Apple had to actually entice people to buy their newest and most novel tablets and phones are long over, but these days facts are still hard to come by. While the company isn’t commenting on whether reports of a 7.85″ iPad Mini are indeed accurate, investment analysts are all but certain of it.

According to one such analyst, current estimates place the release of the miniature iPad as coming this October, sporting an 8GB hard drive and a price tag of $299.

The reports may seem a bit dubious and speculative, but reports of a scaled-down version of Apple’s tablet have been circling for a while now. In April a source close to Apple explained that the iPad Mini was being tested internally without a set manufacturing plan, with later reports claiming that the devices would even be sold at a loss to force competition out of the market.

The latest investor estimates from Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves, courtesy of CNet, confirm the previously expected release window of October 2012, but with even more insight into possible hardware and pricing:

“We anticipate an entry-level 7.85″ iPad with 8GB of NAND capacity to price at $299 with an initial gross margin of 31%. We anticipate 25% cannibalization of the larger 9.7″ iPad (for every four 7.85″ iPads added, we reduced our 9.7″ iPad estimate by one), so our total F2013 iPad estimate increases to 91.6 million from 65.2 million.”

The new $299 price tag certainly throws a wrench into the theory that Apple would kill the tablet competition with price alone, but the device would still be one of the more affordable products sporting the Apple logo. The investment firm also projects 10 million sold by the end of December 2012, should the launch go as planned, with a total of 35 million the following year. Numbers that large for a smaller/larger version of a device that already exists may seem optimistic, but…this is Apple we’re talking about.

Hargreaves and Pacific Crest have been correct with their Apple predictions in the past, even if predicting the success of iPhones and iPads may not be the hardest call to make. At the moment Hargreaves is also confident enough to also predict that the launch of the 8GB iPad Mini would spell the end for the $399 iPad 2, and selling a 16GB Mini for a similar cost. Fans of larger tablets can look forward to a newer, lighter version which is also predicted to be released in the near future.

These predictions may turn out to be wrong, but the price points and sales plan does seem well within the realm of possibility. Are there any aspects of the analyst projections that you think ring less true than others?

When, and if, Apple decides to confirm that the 7.85″ iPad Mini is actually being developed we’ll keep you updated.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: CNet

tags: Apple, iPad