The last full week in October is shaping up to be a biggie. In addition to the long-awaited launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 on Oct. 26, there are now reports that Apple will release an iPad Mini on Oct. 23.

Bloomberg News, Reuters and others are reporting the event, based on unnamed sources "familiar with the plans." However, Apple has not yet issued a statement one way or the other, a location for the event has not yet been reported, and no one has yet jumped up and said they've received an invitation.

Jobs' Lightning Bolts?

There has been speculation for months that, as a way to shore up its dominant position in the category against the release of various smaller tablets, a smaller iPad was in the works. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, Barnes & Noble's Nook tablet, and Google's Nexus 7, among others, have been carving out a "small tablet" niche. And the niche is rapidly growing. The Kindle Fire currently has about 20 percent of the U.S. tablet market.

Microsoft is also expected to present Windows 8 and RT tablets at its big OS release event on Friday of that week, including its own Surface tablet.

The currently circulating reports say that the new device will have a starting price of about $299 and a screen between 7 and 8 inches.

The Reuters story included a report from an unnamed Wall Street analyst who said he had an opportunity to play with an iPad Mini prototype when he visited component suppliers in Asia. He described it as a 7.85-inch device that "fit our hands like a glove," and added that it was easily tucked into a sports coat.

If Apple does release an iPad in the 7-inch range, do not be surprised if Steve Jobs throws lightning bolts down from heaven. The late Apple co-founder had dismissed the 7-inch tablet form factor as being unwieldy, and added that such devices should be accompanied by sandpaper so that owners could file down their fingers.

Best Evidence: Cases

But more recent information, including an internal Apple e-mail revealed as part of a patent trial with Samsung, said Jobs privately had grown to like the idea.

Meanwhile, the add-on industry appears to getting in gear. There are reports that iPad Mini cases in various colors, some of which are described as being for "iPad Mini 7.85-inch tablet," have shown up on China's largest B2B e-commerce site, Alibaba.com.

The target audience would most likely be buyers in China or elsewhere, who represent retail stores. Alibaba typically offers cases for new Apple products prior to the actual launch, assumedly with advance information provided by component suppliers in the region.

Meanwhile, as the world awaits the iPad Mini, there were reports earlier this month that some Windows-based tablets may not make it to the Oct. 26 launch for the newest version of Windows.

The purported delay, according to a story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek last week, said Microsoft had not yet approved any tablets with Intel Relevant Products/Services's Clover Trail processor Relevant Products/Services because the required power management software was not yet available from Intel.