10/23/2012 11:21 EDT | Updated 12/23/2012 05:12 EST

Apple's mini iPad expected today

Apple's new, smaller iPad, positioned between the iPhone and the iPad, is forecast to be aimed directly at competition from Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus machines, with a price to match.

The new iPad Mini is expected to be shown for the first time today at a 1 p.m. ET media event in California.

The device has been widely predicted to have a 7.85-inch screen (measured diagonally), which is smaller than the conventional iPad's 9.7-inch display and bigger than the iPhone's four-inch screen. It will be slightly larger than the seven-inch display offered by its main competitors.

The mystery until today was the price, variously forecast to be between $249 and $299 U.S. The Kindle Fire starts at $159, and the Nexus 7 at $199. Meanwhile, Apple sells the iPad 2 for $399 and the 4-inch iPod Touch for $199. Company watchers are pegging the price of the smaller iPad somewhere in between.

One blogger on Monday forecasted an ambitious price of $329.

Analysts such as Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets believe that Apple will also sell a step-up version of the iPad Mini, one with the ability to access 4G cellular networks for an additional monthly fee. That’s a feature that the cheaper, seven-inch tablets don’t have.

Apple is holding Tuesday’s presentation at a theatre in San Jose. The company typically starts selling a new phone or iPad a week or two after announcing it, but it could treat the new iPad as a minor product update, in which case it could start sales right after the announcement.

Steve Jobs was skeptical

Apple has sold 84 million iPads since the tablet's debut in April 2010. One of the first competitors to appear was a Samsung tablet with a seven-inch screen. Apple’s late founder, Steve Jobs, made a rare appearance at an October 2010 conference call with analysts — his last — to deride the concept.

“The reason we wouldn’t make a seven-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a price point. It’s because we don’t think you can make a great tablet with a seven-inch screen,” Jobs said. “The seven-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.”

Jobs, who died last October, had strong opinions, but he also changed his mind frequently. The production of a smaller iPad would not be the first time that Apple has made a product that Jobs initially dismissed as ridiculous.

In an internal email sent in January 2011, Apple senior vice-president Eddy Cue said that a seven-inch tablet would work well and that Jobs was starting to come around to the idea. The email surfaced as part of Apple’s patent trial against Samsung Electronics Co. this year.

Apart from the smaller iPad, Apple is also expected to refresh some other products. There was speculation that the MacBook will come in a version with a 13-inch, high-resolution “Retina” screen. The 15-inch MacBook got an option for a Retina screen this summer.