Where’s the iPad Mini Mystique?

Another day, another clue unearthed about the smaller iPad Apple is supposedly developing. This time, component suppliers in Asia have reportedly tipped Apple’s hand, telling The Wall Street Journal that they have received orders for millions of the 7.85-inch tablets in the fourth quarter.

The “iPad mini,” as it has been dubbed, has reached that strange status of a product whose existence hasn’t been officially acknowledged, but whose debut is widely and imminently expected — to the tune, as the latest rumor has it, of 10 million units.

Drip, Drip, Drip of Information

Leaks about the iPad Mini have been coming fast and furiously. This is what we “know” about Apple’s 7-inch tablet, said Daniel M. Ladik, an associate professor of marketing at Seton Hall University, courtesy of the rumor mill: It will cost US$249, plus or minus $50. “To keep the price down and still have somewhat of a margin, we’re going to see the old chip, the A5, WiFi-only at the cheapest price point, and no high-def screen,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Invitations to the press go out on Oct 10th, the event is Oct 17th, and it will go on sale Nov 2nd,” Ladik added.

Such detailed information may suggest the steady drip, drip, drip of revelations — or at least buzz-building — might somehow result in a backlash against Apple. Expectations could be built so high that no company could possibly meet them, or conversely, the steady cycle of leaks could render the product so familiar to consumers that it could lose that “must-have” aura before it even reaches the market. Or it could turn out that some or most of the rumors are incorrect, and consumers may wind up blaming Apple for misleading them.

More than likely, Apple is not behind the leaks, Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group told the E-Commerce Times.

“I think this is the case of leakers testing the waters in post-Jobs Apple, and they think they can get away with a lot more,” she said.

In the past, the leakers would risk facing Steve Jobs’ personal wrath or a threat in order of magnitude of thermonuclear war, Arvani remarked.

Perhaps for that reason, the leaks for this particular product cycle seem to be more certain in tone than other Apple product cycles, Eric Martin, a partner with Boost Partners, told the E-Commerce Times. “The amount of speculation is no more prevalent with the mini than it has been with other Apple releases. However, the confidence with which this speculation is being reported as fact is higher than in the past.”

That said, it is clear the iPad mini is a much-anticipated release — in part because Apple has previously maligned this form factor, he continued. Beyond the fact that it is smaller, though, little has really been established about the product via the rumor mill.

“Apple is always capable of surprises,” Martin said. “If the iPad mini is released as primarily a larger form factor than the iPhone or touch, Apple may have seen selective leaks as being beneficial in arresting sales of competing brands’ small tablets as consumers awaited the mini’s probable release.”

Who’s Hurt

So far, Apple hasn’t been hurt by the leaks, Arvani said — although the news that Apple is planning to launch 10 million devices is inching across that line.

“It is not bad for folks to know that Apple is working on 7-inch tablets so they can wait to see how Apple would define such a product category,” she explained, “but releasing volume numbers isn’t good for any product company.”

For Apple in particular, leaks are not a good idea, added Arvani. “It is part of the mystique of the brand for folks to get surprised — and it is good not to dilute that.”

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