Back in may iMore reported that the iPad mini was good to go this fall, and that it would indeed be a smaller iPad in a thinner, lighter shell. Now it's being reported that the 7.85-inch -- non-Retina -- iPad mini has begun mass production in China. Lorraine Luk at the Wall Street Journal has the story:

Asian suppliers for Apple Inc. have started mass production of a new tablet computer smaller than the current iPad, executives at component makers said, as the Silicon Valley company tries to stay competitive against tablets from rivals such as Google Inc. and Inc.

The WSJ claims competition is intensifying in the tablet space, but realistically, where? Apple is now selling the iPad in 90+ countries. Not only does Apple have iTunes in more countries than any competing content store, Apple's business model allows them to sell iPads even in regions where there's no iTunes store. Contrast this with Amazon, who can sell cheap tablets in the U.S. and a few, select other markets where they're able to try and subsidize them with content stores, but literally cannot afford to sell them anywhere else.

While there may have been some early concern that the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD would put significant competitive pressure on the small sized tablet market, necessitating a $200 response from Apple in the form of the iPad mini, it seems more likely Apple is looking at this from an Apple perspective. For some potential buyers, $500 is too high a price point, and 9.7-inches is too big and heavy a device to appeal. Remove both those barriers of entry, and you increase the addressable market.

Apple wants to own the tablet space, not just the large-sized tablet space. From education to enterprise to highly mobile, value-concious consumers, it's a huge target to hit.

Independently, iMore has learned that Apple is still planning to take their iPad mini-sized shot at it this month.

Source: Wall Street Journal