As Wednesday approaches, Apple fans continue to speculate aboutwhat the company may be revealing at its special media event in San Francisco. Although rumors were initially circulating about whether a smaller version of the iPad would be released--dubbed iPad Mini by many tech journalists--most aren't expecting the device to make an appearance anytime soon.

That doesn't necessarily mean Apple isn't pursuing a smaller tablet device: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is working with component suppliers in Asia to test a new tablet computer with a smaller screen in an attempt to broaden its product pipeline.

Officials at some of Apple's suppliers, who declined to be named, said the Cupertino, Calif., company has shown them screen designs for a new device with a screen size of around eight inches and said the company is qualifying suppliers for it. says the WSJ report.

VentureBeat has aslo been given information about the rumored tablet device. Our information on Apple buying up 7.1-inch screen components comes from another source, and it differs slightly from recent Digitimes reports indicating that Apple is working on a 7.85-inch iPad for later in the year, says VentureBeat.

The blog says that Apple is particularly keen on taking back ground from the Kindle Fire, which is estimated to have sold 6 million units over the holidays. It says that the company is positioning the smaller iPad launch for later this year, but that the release date could easily change.

As rumors fly about the release of an iPad Mini, Jumptap, a mobile advertising network, reports that Amazon has risen to become one of the strongest competitors in the tablet market during the few months of its existence. In January, the Amazon Kindle Fire accounted for 33 percent of all tablet traffic according to statistics from Jumptap.

The pace of Amazon Kindle Fire usage growth has even outpaced the growth of tablet internet traffic. Apple's share of the market, meanwhile, has been slowly dwindling, reaching a four-month low with just 48 percent of the market.

Despite speculation of a new Apple tablet device that would directly compete with the Amazon Kindle Fire and other low-budget tablets, one event may give some insight into whether that will ever happen: In October 2010, Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, stood firmly behind the size of the existing iPad's screen. He said the 9.7 display was the minimum size that was required for creating usable apps.

Apparently, consumers disagree.