Apple has just sent out its last round of invites for the year, and it's as official as it gets: The iPad Mini is coming next week. Go ahead and mark off October 23rd on your calendars. It should be quite a show.
As the invite above indicates, the event will be held at 10am PST/1pm EST at the California Center in San Jose. If that comes as a surprise, it maybe shouldn't; the event date is just one of a slew of iPad Mini rumors that have burbled up these last few months. Given how on point this year's crop of iPhone 5 rumors turned out to be, it's safe to assume the tiny tablet is equally in our sights.
Apple famously likes leaving clues in its event invitations, ranging from obvious to obscure. This one seems to fall a little in between; the "little" pretty obviously refers to the iPad Mini's smaller size, but if we feel like reading a little further into it, an invitation with this much flair could mean Apple's tiny tablet could come in an array of iPod touch-like color.
What else has the rumor mill predicted for next week? Here's the rundown: A 7.85-inch, not-quite-retina display powered by an A5 processor and 512MB of RAM, priced starting anywhere from $250 to $350, available in a week or two. It will probably come in both Wi-Fi and 3G versions, and will look like, well, a smaller iPad. We could also see a new 13-inch retina MacBook pro and Mac mini.
The small tablet is a brand new look for Apple, one that Steve Jobs famously dismissed but that market pressures have forced on the company. The Kindle Fire HD, the Nexus 7. People are buying these. And—even worse for Apple—they're good.
For what it's worth, Apple's announcement comes just an hour after several inside looks at Microsoft's Surface tablet were unleashed on the public, making this not a bad way to steal some headlines—and hype—from what might be its best full-sized tablet competition yet.
As always, we'll be covering next week's iPad Mini magic show live. Here's hoping there are still a few surprises left.