Mini iPad?The  Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Apple’s Asian suppliers are preparing for the mass production of a smaller iPad, with a screen size of less than 8 inches, later this year. Current iPad models feature screens that measure 9.7 inches diagonally.

Earlier this week Bloomberg also reported that Apple is getting ready to launch a smaller iPad by the end of the year, with an announcement in October, when it is also expected to launch the iPhone 5. Other recent reports suggest that Apple might price a “mini-iPad” between $249 and $299.

A lower priced “mini iPad” might allow Apple to compete more directly with the low-end tablet market where Amazon has found some success in the U.S. with its 7-inch, $199 Kindle Fire, or, more importantly, provide a broader range of tablet prices to attract more consumers in Asia and South America. Last month, Google announced it that will launch a 7 inch tablet – the Nexus 7 – which is also priced to compete at the low-end of the market, starting at $199.