San Jose is the place to be, as Apple confirms the 23 October launch event for the iPad Mini, setting it up for a battle royale with Microsoft's new Surface tablets.
Okay, these two devices aren't direct competitors, however by launching around the same time, it gives the watching world a grandstand view of a real Microsoft vs. Apple battle, something we haven't really seen before since the early and recent-era PC days.
Microsoft unveiled the pricing of its Surface tablets earlier, which pitches it directly against the full-size iPad range, with the addition of its unique cover/keyboard. While the iPad Mini is designed to compete more with the Kindle Fires and Nexus tablets of this world, its premium quality and iOS experience will make for interesting comparisons from users.
With Apple having confirmed the news of a 23 October event, which will show off the new Mini iPad the new iTunes, a new Retina MacBook, perhaps new Mac Minis and maybe some other goodies, it might be quite a show.
But with all this news leaking out well in advance, Apple really needs to ditch the "look at our magic" presentations and do something new and different. A more hard-hitting, consumer focused event with content subscriptions to broaden the ageing iTunes approach will be greatly appreciated.
In the Eye of the Consumer
So, with the holiday season looming, buyers will have a wider choice of tablets than ever before. Apple, Android makers and Microsoft will all be promoting their devices heavily. Certainly, Apple's market dominance will be watered down come next year, but Apple will be happy maintaining its margins and the sense of "best-of-breed", regardless of how true (or not) that perception is.
Microsoft will be looking to set a decent base on which to grow the Windows 8 (and Windows RT) base. But, it risks user confusion and fragmentation from its multi-OS approach, while Android makers will be looking to pick up on the massive Android smartphone user base.
The iPad Mini really could be the first Apple device in some time that fails to impress, as it launches into such a crowded, vibrant market. While Surface tablets may lack the vibrancy of the iOS ecosystem, if it takes off in numbers, that advantage could soon be wiped out. So, there is much to play for from all parties and it will be the mis-steps and mistakes that are more likely to be remembered than the successes.