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iPad mini is real, thin as an iPod Touch, reports say

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Is a smaller, thinner iPad on the way? (AP)

The “iPad mini” is real, will sport a screen just shy of eight inches and will cost “significantly less” than Apple’s standard tablet, according to several published reports. 

According to unidentified sources, the company is developing the tablet with a 7.85-inch screen that is likely to cost “significantly less” than the $499 iPad, with its 9.7-inch display -- specifications that match earlier reports -- according to a new report from the New York Times.

They are now the third major news organization, along with the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, which believes Apple will release a new, smaller iPad sometime this fall.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Apple would “debut a smaller, cheaper iPad by year-end” with a screen size between seven and eight inches, citing unnamed sources. The Wall Street Journal followed up with a report suggesting much of the same.

Such developments may contrast the wishes of the late Steve Jobs. Back in October of 2010, he lambasted smaller sized tablets during an earnings call. Jobs believed that making a great 7-inch tablet was impossible, noting that the 9.7-inch iPad was the minimum size required for optimal browsing and apps.

In this case, the competition may have forced Apple’s hand. Amazon already makes a smaller tablet, the Kindle Fire, and Google’s new Nexus 7 device will only increase the pressure. Apple may start feeling the heat from all angles: Microsoft’s Surface tablet is gunning for the standard iPad and now Amazon may be considering a larger Kindle, according to the same Times report.

But the worst news may be for Apple competitors. Apple fan site Think iOS claims to have received a fresh set of leaked schematics that indicate the iPad mini could be a remarkable 7.4 millimeters thin or 0.1 millimeters thicker than an iPod Touch.

The iPad mini is expected to cost between $249 and $299 and to be released later this year.