Gottheil argued that Apple could wage a "Just Buy Two" campaign for a scaled-down iPad, which most experts expect to come with a price tag of $250 to $300. "The smaller form factor is preferable in some situations," Gottheil said, of the inevitable comparisons that will be made with the original iPad if a Mini shows up.
Carolina Milanesi, a research analyst and vice president with Gartner, echoed that. "Despite what Jobs initially said about the 7-in. form factor, I think it is clear now that there are two types of tablets: one for consumption and one for consumption and creation," said Milanesi.
"Will this broaden Apple's market share? Absolutely," said Gottheil. "Will they do a 'Mini? That's absolutely true. No one, not even Apple, can afford to produce only the highest-priced product. They've shown that with the way they're pricing the iPhone and iPad, they're willing to follow the price curve down."
Gottheil was referring to Apple's now-standard practice of retaining two older iPhone models when it launches a new smartphone, with prices discounted by half and reduced to zero for the second- and third-oldest models, respectively. Apple followed suit last March when it retained the iPad 2 at $399 as it launched a new higher-resolution tablet at the usual $499 entry-level price point.
A new, smaller iPad does, of course, bring up concerns of cannibalization -- buyers who purchase the less-expensive Mini in lieu of the full-figured iPad -- but most analysts contacted today discounted the threat to Apple's revenue.
White estimated that a Mini would cannibalize 10% to 20% of iPad unit sales, meaning that one or two out of every ten committed iPad buyers would pick a cheaper Mini instead.
"Actually, that's not that high [a cannibalization rate]," argued White. "And a lot of people will own both."
He also repeated earlier assertions that a smaller, lower-priced iPad Mini would sell well to education, in developing markets, and in China, where for all Apple's cachet, White has seen relatively few iPads during his regular trips there.
"There will be some percentage of the likely buyers who will say, 'This [iPad Mini] will do,'" said Gottheil. "But there will be others who will say, 'I'll get two.'"
If Apple does debut an iPad Mini this month, some analysts have bet that it will only tighten the screws on competitors. Last July, for example, IDC predicted that a Mini-armed Apple would keeps its share of the tablet market above the 60% bar for the foreseeable future.