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Apple is expected to host an event on October 23 at which it will almost certainly unveil a smaller iPad tablet, targeting less expensive devices offered by Amazon.com and Google.

Wall Street analysts and media have for months suggested that Apple is planning a smaller, less costly version of its popular iPad to take on cheapies like Amazon’s US$199 Kindle Fire and Google’s similarly priced Nexus, a move that analysts say might hurt Apple’s margins but prevent its rivals from dominating an increasingly important computing segment.

Web site AllThingsD, part of the Wall Street Journal group, reported at the weekend that Apple will launch the mini iPad at next week’s event. The device is expected by many observers to have a 7.85-inch screen, compared with 9.7-inch display on the current iPad..

The October 23 date – a Tuesday – come three days before Microsoft’s new Surface tablet goes on sale, stealing a bit of the limelight from that event, and two days before Apple reports earnings for its latest quarter.

AllThingsD said its source had declined to specify where the event is to be held, but the Web site conjectured it was likely to be at Apple’s HQ in Cupertino, Silicon Valley, rather than downtown San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Centre where Apple recently unveiled the iPhone 5 and the 2012 iPod, in a major event that also saw it recruit Foo Fighters to close the show.

“It’s hard to imagine it mounting a second production of that calibre in such a short time. More likely that the iPad mini’s debut will be an intimate affair held close to home,” the Web site said.

It notes that Apple has used its own “Town Hall Auditorium” to launch a number of important products in the past – including operating system OS X Lion, a next-generation MacBook Air and the iPhone 4S – so it seems there’s no shortage of precedent.

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