It is becoming more likely Apple is going to announce the launch of an “iPad mini” this year. The rumored 7.85-inch iPad could launch as early as the third quarter and sell for between $249 and $299, according to iDownloadBlog.

In what would be Apple’s biggest launch of a new product since the first iPad debuted in January 2010, the “iPad mini” would be used as a “counter attack” against upcoming tablets running Windows 8, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

According to a Chinese report translated by Kotaku, Apple (through their primary iPad manufacturer, Foxconn) is readying up to six million units of the smaller iPad, which will go on sale beginning in October.

Should we trust today’s news?

By itself, today’s news means very little. However, it comes at a time when the number of “iPad mini” rumors is growing and coming more often.

Numerous “iPad mini” rumors have been floated in recent weeks, with influential blogger John Gruber stating just two weeks ago that the product is being tested inside Apple’s labs. At the time, however, the Daring Fireball editor said he wasn’t sure whether the product would actually be released to the public.

Last month, AppAdvice’s A.T. Faust III suggested Apple had 163 reasons to release the “iPad mini.” Faust concluded the new tablet would include a 1,204-by-768-pixel resolution and include a pixel density of 163 pixels per inch.

Personally, I’d be surprised if Apple didn’t announce an “iPad mini.” Not only would it help the company compete against the coming barrage of less expensive Windows 8-based tablets, but it wouldn’t require too much work for would-be “iPad mini” developers.

Says iDownloadBlog:

“Apps written for the first-generation iPad and iPad 2 would run natively and wouldn’t need to be recompiled or redesigned to work on the rumored “iPad mini.” (sic)”

iPad mini

iPad mini

Of course, only Apple knows for sure whether the “iPad mini” is just a rumor or looks to be the must-have iDevice of the 2012 holiday season.

At this point, consider it slightly more than possible.

Do you believe the rumors and think Apple will release a smaller iPad sometime this year? Will you be in line on the first day the new iDevice is released?