The trickling of rumors suggesting an iPad Mini is in the works has grown to become a raging torrent, with mainstream sources now seriously reporting on Apple's plans for a smaller iPad. Previously, websites such as Digitimes have been the source of such rumors, but with The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg now on board there seems less and less room for doubt such a device is on its way.

Steve Jobs famously expressed his disinterest in the 7-inch tablet form factor on several occasions, eventually publicly ruling out suggestions that Apple was working on one. But with Tim Cook installed as CEO after Jobs' death in 2011 things have changed, no doubt inspired by how the tablet market is growing and evolving over time.

Google recently unveiled the Nexus 7, its first company-branded foray into the tablet market. The Nexus 7 is a powerful device being offered at a low price: US$199 for a quad-core 7-inch tablet with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Most reviews are claiming the Nexus 7 to be the best 7-inch tablet available, with some even suggesting it competes with the new Retina Display-boasting iPad itself.

As well as the Nexus 7, an iPad Mini would go head-to-head with the second generation Kindle Fire models Amazon will likely be releasing soon. The online retailer is expected to announce both an updated 7-inch model and a new 10-inch model, thus competing with Apple on two fronts. The difference being that Amazon is focusing more on its own Android overlay and using the Kindle Fire as a trojan horse designed to encourage users to buy digital content. Apple and Google are much more focused on delivering solid hardware.

The present set of rumors related to the iPad Mini suggest it will boast a touchscreen measuring between 7 and 8 inches diagonally, with an announcement expected in October 2012. Little else is being said on the hardware front except the fact that the iPad Mini would not feature the same Retina Display that really differentiates the new iPad from everything else on the market.

Some important questions clearly remain, specifically the price and hardware configuration of the iPad Mini. The former will be especially critical in determining how any battle waged between Apple and Google will play out. Apple has the advantage of a strong brand, a passionate user-base, a network of retail stores, and an ecosystem of apps and content that comprehensively beats Google's own. But Google is not chasing the high profit margins for which Apple is notorious.

The stage is set for an interesting battle between these two technology giants.

Sources: Bloomberg & The Wall Street Journal