iPad Mini, Refreshed iPad Coming In October?

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What are the odds that Apple would release another new iPad, the much-rumored iPad Mini, and the new iPhone all in the same month? Pretty good, according to Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves. In a recent note to investors, Hargreaves predicted that Apple will launch a 7.85-inch iPad Mini and a thinner, lighter update to the new iPad, and kill the $399 iPad 2 at the same time.

The when the new iPad was introduced in March, the iPad 2 got a significant drop in price to $399. While the cheaper iPad has proven extremely popular, there is speculation that its popularity may come at the expense of the new iPad. If so, then killing off the cheaper iPad 2 makes a great deal of sense for Apple financially.

The other parts of Hargreaves's predictions, though, are a bit tougher to swallow. Specifically, the part about the new iPad getting a refresh is unlikely in the extreme. Apple has held very closely to a 12-month product cycle for iOS devices, and that cycle has worked extremely well for them. Apple isn't likely to launch in October a better version of the tablet they launched in March. That's not a money making strategy, it's a piss-off-the-customers strategy. Any rumor about Apple re-launching a product before it's 12-month cycle is over goes straight into the "I'll eat my hat" file.

As for the iPad Mini, most of the rumors we've heard so far do put it in October - assuming it ever launches at all. The only problem with that is the new iPhone. If the iPhone were still on its June/July schedule (which means it would've been launched at WWDC three weeks ago), then an October launch for the iPad Mini would make perfect sense - it's far enough away from the iPhone that many of the people who want both can get both, and it's excellently positioned for the holiday shopping season.

The problem, though, is that the iPhone is now on an autumn release schedule, thanks to the delay of last year's iPhone 4S (though Apple hasn't officially confirmed this, they did announce a fall release of iOS 6, which will certainly be launching alongside the new iPhone). At Hargreaves's $299 price point - which fits well with the rumors we've heard so far - the iPad Mini and the new iPhone will be direct competitors. Many people will want both, and for most it will be an either-or purchase decision, not a both-and. In other words, an iPad Mini and the new iPhone would cannibalize each others' sales if they launch at the same time. A lot of people who would get the new iPhone will decide to hold off for another year and get the iPad Mini instead, while those who need a new iPhone will forego the iPad Mini.

While rumors about the iPad Mini seem particularly strong lately, it's important to remember that they're just that: rumors. Rumors of a smaller iPad have been around since the launch of the original iPad. While it's probably true that Apple has the iPad Mini in their labs, it's by no means certain that they'll ever release it. And if they do release it, it doesn't make much sense that they'll do so in such a way as to interfere with their flagship product.

You can read Hargreaves's note in PDF form here.

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