Following recent reports by Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reasserting belief that Apple’s been working on a smaller, inexpensive iPad allegedly coming in September, analysts are running their spreadsheets like crazy attempting to guesstimate the sales potency of the elusive $249-$299 device

Gene Munster, a resident Apple analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in today’s note to clients (via AppleInsider) that Apple could sell as much as six million iPad mini shipments this holiday season. If it’s priced at $299 with 16 gigabytes of storage, it would cannibalize ten percent of existing iPad sales, but also claim as much as 30 percent of total Android tablet shipments in the December quarter.

We believe this implies that Apple could sell 4-6 million smaller iPads in the December quarter, assuming a holiday launch. If the launch occurs in (the fourth quarter), we believe the smaller iPad would add about 1 percent to revenue and (earnings per share) in December.

Munster thinks the iPad mini, which is said to have a 7.85-inch display with a 1024-by-768 pixel resolution, could increase Apple’s lead in the next four years as it’d address price and size, the two major selling points of seven-inch Android products.

The analyst expect Cupertino to unveil the iPad mini at a fall media event, alongside the next iPhone and an updated Apple TV set-top box.

Another analyst, Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets, expects minor cannibalization of the current iPad by the iPad mini in the range of ten to twenty percent. However, he pointed out that the iPad mini may give Apple a larger market opportunity than its bigger brother, potentially even outselling the regular iPad.

If you ask me, it is no coincidence that big media has revived the old iPad mini rumor, conspicuously timed just two weeks after Google unveiled its $199 Nexus 7 device and just as rumors of a new Kindle Fire begin to heat up.

Both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal are unofficial Apple mouthpieces and this tells me that Cupertino is starting to alert the press through unofficial channels that it’s working on a new iPad version to compete with both Google and Amazon.

When you think of it realistically, Apple doesn’t have a choice. It has to bring the iPad mini to market if it’s to keep its market share from eroding and lure potential customers into its ecosystem.

Thoughts?