Talking tech since 2003

A few years back, Apple had achieved a legendary level of secrecy in terms of the products it had in the pipeline. The iPhone 4 debacle, where an Apple employee left a test unit at a bar, chipped away at that armor slightly. But no Apple product, and no product in recent history, was as widely-predicted with such specificity as the iPad mini. The new Apple tablet, unveiled in October and released at the beginning of November, was pretty much what everyone was expecting. And in a world where Apple product keynotes garner heavy press coverage and lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd, some were just hoping to be a little surprised when the iPad mini finally arrived.

Unfortunately, the surprises were in short supply.

Solid evidence of an iPad mini can be traced back to over a year ago, back in October 2011. It was then that supply line leaks let loose that Apple was in receipt of 7.85-inch LCD displays from LG and AU Optronics. That really got the rumor mills churning, and the curiosity never died down. John Gruber, a man with some very good sources, told listeners of The Talk Show podcast back in April that he had indeed heard Apple was testing a prototype 7.85-inch iPad, running with a resolution of 1024 by 768. While a few outliers gambled on Apple going with a Retina display for the new device, most of the leaks and reports favored the smaller resolution.

And then, in September, dummy mock-ups of the iPad mini started to float around the Web. Here’s one image containing such a dummy device, which bears a striking resemblance to the product Apple eventually launched.


By the time October rolled around, most were in agreement that the iPad mini would come with a display around 7.9 inches and a resolution of 1024 by 768. The details that weren’t quite nailed down had to do with wireless options; some felt that the iPad mini would not come with 4G/LTE flavors, while others disagreed. Of course, we know now that the iPad mini does indeed have 4G models available.

Apple sent out event invitations to the tech press on October 16, with the text “We’ve got a little more to show you.” Little, indeed, as most felt the iPad mini was a lock to be unveiled at the event. At this point, there had been enough leaks about the device for attendees to have a good idea what to expect. I watched the event, and I personally hoped that Apple had somehow deceived us all by leaking out false bits about the device, purposely underwhelming us so that we’d later be floored by a beautiful Retina display and other new features. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The iPad mini that had been rumored, leaked, and heavily discussed wound up being the same product that appeared on stage.

On the surprise scale, from 1 to 10, the iPad mini registered at around a 2. It was unlike Apple, and more like the plethora of other companies who fail to create a stir with product announcements. Some manufacturers announce products months ahead of time, and, by the time they launch, all of the hype and the intrigue is gone. Apple may not have announced the iPad mini itself, but the supply chain leaks had the same effect; they effectively made the iPad mini launch more about what was missing and less about what we were getting. And they made Apple appear mortal.

That is why I am crowning the iPad mini the “Worst-Kept Secret of 2012.”

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