On Tuesday, October 23 at 10 AM Pacific / 1 PM Eastern time, Apple will hold a press event in San Jose, California, where industry watchers and consumers alike anticipate that Apple's new baby, the iPad Mini, will be held up for all the kingdom to see. But what will the little one be like?
The press invitation for the event shows only the top portion of the famous Apple icon against an iridescent background, and the words: "We've got a little more to show you." Based on that and the rumors of recent weeks -- of which there have been no shortage -- here are some of the expectations.
Most observers expect the iPad Mini to be in the 7- to 8-inch range, and have a starting price of $250-299. A Reuters story earlier this month included a report from an unnamed Wall Street analyst who said that he had had an opportunity to play with an iPad Mini prototype when he was visiting some Asian component makers, and he described the device as being 7.85 inches. He also said it fit "our hands like a glove."
If it is in that size and price range, the model's immediate impact will be on the mini-tablet market that has evolved. The leading products in that category are Amazon's Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet and Google's Nexus 7, all of which primarily have been sold as media consumption devices.
Flo's Weblog, a German-language site, has run a photo of what it claims is an official spreadsheet with iPad Mini models and pricing. They show the device starting at $250 for an 8 GB Wi-Fi version and $350 for a cellular one, possibly LTE.
Every new generation of Apple products seems to get thinner and lighter. Although there is of course a physical limit to such a progression, the smaller iPad will certainly be lighter, and no one will be much surprised if it is thinner than its older siblings.
Several rumors point to an A5 processor and possibly 512 MB of memory, and there's at least one thread floating around that the name "Mini" will not be employed. Instead, in keeping with a well-respected family name, some think it will be dubbed the iPad Air.
There's also some speculation that an iPad Mini will have the Retina display that is beginning to populate Apple's screen-based products. The collective opinion is somewhat divided on this, however, because of the cost of the high-resolution display.
Oct. 26 or Nov. 2?
One recent rumor holds that, if an iPad Mini is unveiled on Tuesday, it will actually be released on the following Friday, Oct. 26 -- which could well be seen as Apple's effort to rain on Microsoft's parade, since Windows 8 is formally rolling out on Oct. 26.
Such timing could effectively step on Microsoft's efforts to try to get a foothold into the rapidly growing tablet market. In addition to the new version of its OS, the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant is expected to show Windows 8 and RT tablets, not the least of which will be its own Windows Surface tablets.
However, other reports indicate that the iPad Mini will hit the stores on Nov. 2. The timing of the product's release is not only important because of the possible impact on, or by, the Windows 8 announcement, but because of the critical holiday season. Apple sold more than 15 million iPads in last year's holiday season.
But as the new comes in, the old moves out. One analyst, Rob Cihra of Evercore Partners, has said he expects Apple to phase out the current iPad 2 after the release of the Mini, so that it can maintain clear "product tiers."