iPad and iPad mini
iPad and iPad mini Apple

Even as Apple fans are keeping a watchful eye on the iPad 3's speculated release date, an analyst has suggested that the iPad mini is also on the way.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told Computerworld that the tech giant might launch an iPad Mini with a 7-inch display later this year.

Gottheil also predicted that the mini tablet will come along with a specially-designed wireless keyboard-case accessory. The matching Bluetooth keyboard might be packed in the case together with the iPad Mini, which could attracts the customers.

I think something like that would be an important peripheral for students, Gottheil added.

If Gottheil's prediction is correct, it will prove the creative genius Steve Jobs wrong, who said a small iPad would not work as the screen is too small to express the software. According to Jobs, any tablet smaller than 10 inches are tweener devices - too big to be a smartphone and too small to be a tablet.

However, Gottheil still has high expectation for the iPad Mini. I believe that's always been in the plan Gottheil told Computerworld. 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.

This isn't the first rumor to surface about the iPad Mini. At the end of last year, Taipei-based DigiTimes had reported that a small iPad with a 7.85-inch display might be released by Apple in the fourth quarter this year, just in time for the next Christmas.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the rumor could probably be true as Apple is facing heat from the 7-inch Kindle Fire from Amazon and smartphones with large displays and only an iPad with a smaller screen could help Apple fend off the rivals.