So now we have our first photos related to the purported iPad mini. GottaBeMobile has posted photos of a plastic mold for the iPad mini that apparently plays some role in the initial stages of prototyping a device. So there's not much to see other than the fact that it gives a good sense for the size and thickness of the device. And it is svelte — appearing to be the thinnest iPad so far. Regarding height and width, it will be about two-thirds the size of the current 9.7-inch iPad. The plastic model also shows the mini dock connector that's been rumored — a smaller version of the connector in current iOS devices. It also appears to have a speaker on either side of the mini dock. (The accompanying photo shows the plastic model lying on a current iPad to give a sense for the relative size.)
Various rumors to date suggest that the iPad mini will have a 7.85-inch display, will be launched in October alongside the iPhone 5, will be $299, and will have a screen that uses IGZO technology. Rumors have varied regarding the latter point, but I'm betting that Apple will be moving to IGZO, because it consumes less power, is brighter, and will allow for thinner design. The rumor was that they had intended to use IGZO in the current iPad, but the technology wasn't quite ready. It was tested, but the suppliers weren't able to produce a high enough percentage of defect-free displays, thereby increasing costs. Likely by now the technology is ready for prime time.
Of course, it's all still rumor. We won't know for sure whether we'll be seeing an iPad mini until Apple announces it. Apple is known to have created devices but then dropped them before they got to market. It's apparently a source of pride — evidence that Apple keeps its product line focused and only comes out with the best. That said, given all the different sources for rumors, it seems clear that Apple is at least developing a prototype.