(Pocket-lint) - Although there are some who are still sceptical about whether Apple is to release a smaller version of its iPad tablet this year, we can't help feel that so many different sources are claiming it's definitely on the horizon that there has to be something in it. And these are big names, too.

Now the New York Times has jumped on to the iPad mini bandwagon, claiming that its sources - "several people with knowledge of the project" - have confirmed that the Cupertino company is definitely preparing to release an iPad mini "this year". The paper is even specific about the screen size: 7.85-inches.

Its sources have also told the NYT that the iPad mini is likely to cost significantly less than $499 (the starting price of the 9.7-inch new iPad).

Apple, naturally, declined to comment, but Leslie Grandy, a former Apple manager who is now a consultant to start-up companies, admits that a smaller iPad may not be to everybody's taste, but is a perfect fit for women's handbags.

"I really do feel like this is the sweet spot for them," she said.

An iPad mini certainly makes sense for Apple, especially with the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire/Kindle Fire 2 helping to create a new market for low-cost, smaller tablet devices. Whether is comes this year, however, remains to be seen.

What do you think? Is Apple preparing to launch an iPad mini? And would you buy one? Let us know in the comments below...

Writing by Rik Henderson.