updated 02:33 am EDT, Thu October 18, 2012
If true, would steal thunder from Microsoft Surface debut
A little-known enthusiast website has cited a source that was accurate on the launch date of the iPhone 5, and this time has predicted that the iPad mini -- which is likely to be unveiled in a press event on October 23 -- will debut in the US and a handful of other countries on November 2, with pre-orders opening a week prior. If true, the date of the pre-orders would undoubtedly steal the spotlight away from the official launch of Microsoft's Surface tablet, which will finally make its public debut on the same day.
While there is no confirmation of the pre-order or launch dates for the iPad mini -- nor even undeniable evidence that Apple will actually launch the long-rumored tablet at the October 23 event -- the timing, if accurate, is very likely to be a coincidence rather than a deliberate plan from either company to spoil the other's announcement. Many of the major players in the mobile industry are bringing out new products around the same timeframe in order to get them into stores as the holiday buying season gets underway. Google, for example, has sent out press invites for an event on October 29, presumably to launch the Nexus 4 smartphone and other hardware items from various manufacturers.
Should Apple's pre-order date coincide with Microsoft's launch, the timing would be unfortunate. Though Apple has had little to say about the potential rival to the iPad, Apple and Microsoft have been teaming up frequently of late; both because of Mac products and services that Microsoft offers but also as traditional software makers fighting to protect their intellectual property, talent and trade secrets from "fast follower" companies such as Samsung and Google. The companies maintain a cordial relationship for the most part, despite still being competitors.
Microsoft has had little success thus far getting consumers to warm up to its Windows 8 Phone software, but if the Surface turns out to be a higher-quality rival it could turn some heads away from Android and even iOS by virtue of offering a more distinct and clear alternative to both Apple and Google's similar mobile platforms. The company is seen by many in the Windows community as genuinely trying to turn itself around, coming up with its own distinct products and software that don't just copy the market leaders.
Little is solidly known about the iPad mini, despite a few alleged parts leaks and other tidbits. It is believed the tablet will be a low-priced entry designed to compete with 7-inch models like the Galaxy Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HD. The iPad mini is speculated to offer a bigger screen -- 7.85 inches, nearly 40 percent larger than a 7-inch tablet, and would presumably eliminate some features -- such as a back camera, Retina display quality or 3G capability among other options -- in order to lower the price as much as possible. The iPad mini would be aimed at schools and institutions as much as it would be at budget-minded consumers, and may be designed to tie buyers even closer to the App Store and its various services -- particularly books -- than even its larger version. [Mockup image via Sonny Dickson]