Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is planning to launch a smaller, cheaper iPad to compete with Amazon and Google—and suggests that it will arrive by the end of 2012.

Citing anonymous sources from within Apple, Bloomberg reports that the device would have a screen that's 7 to 8 inches on the diagonal, with a lower pixel density than the current Retina display. The same sources suggest that the product could be announced as early as October of this year.

It's not the first time rumours have circulated about a smaller iPad, but it is the first time an Apple employee has been cited in one of the reports. While there is no way to confirm whether the rumor is correct, it would allow Apple to compete more closely with Amazon's Fire and Google's Nexus 7. It's unlikely that Apple would ever launch a product which didn't make a profit, though, so if it does launch a smaller tablet it's doubtful it would ever be priced as low as £160.

So, will there be a smaller version of the iPad? At the moment, there's not enough evidence to say and, if anything, on balance it's most likely not to be the case. But that doesn't mean we can rule it out. Fortunately, speculation that the device could be launched by the end of year fits with the Apple's usual October iPhone announcement—so you might not have to wait too long to find out. [Bloomberg]

Update: The WSJ is also wading in, with independent reports that a smaller iPad is on the way