Hot on the heels of last week's iPad 3 March launch-date rumor, speculations abound that Apple may finally soon reveal an iPad Mini, releasing a 7-inch version of its wildly popular tablet later this year.

Speaking to Computerworld, technology analyst Ezra Gottheil said he expects Apple to roll out a smaller 7-inch iPad sometime after debuting the iPad 3.

I believe that's always been in the plan, he said.

Actually that's a good form factor for some users, and although they will also charge a premium above other similar-sized tablets, they want to protect that price flank.

If the rumor proves true, the iPad mini will challenge a number of smaller tablets, including Amazon's Fire -- which last quarter sold six million units.

The news comes after allthingsd reported last week that sources close to Apple had told them the company was preparing to announce the iPad 3 in the first week of March, with a possible release a week later.

On Thursday, Web site RepairLabs  posted what it said were leaked back-panel pictures of the new iPad 3.

The site compared the back panels in the photos to the those on the iPad 2, and it suggested several changes users can expect when the new model arrives sometime this year.

Its analysis suggested the new design hints at a larger battery than the previous model sported, a new LCD screen, and a modified camera.