Then there's the competition. There's plenty of it in the 7-to-8-inch tablet market, with new entries from Amazon and a whole mess of Android options. I can't imagine Apple wants to leave this arena uncontested for long--but the company also has time on its side. The iPad remains the dominant and defining product in this niche, and Apple has time to ride that wave, even in the wake of increased competition.
As I said, launching a new iPad in October would give the company a chance to pick up sales during the holiday quarter, which would take away sales from competitors such as Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, especially depending on price. (Where would you price an iPad mini? I'd suspect $250 to $299, which still puts it $50 to $100 more than the Kindle's 7-inch model.)
But I wonder if the rumors don't already help with that. If you're in the market for a smaller tablet right now, and you've been hearing that Apple might come out with a 7.85-inch iPad, you might think twice before rushing out to buy a Kindle or waiting for the yet-to-be-priced Surface tablet from Microsoft. (Unless, of course, you have your heart set on one of those devices for platform reasons.)
I'm sure we all agree that Apple can probably sell plenty of smaller iPads no matter when it introduces them. But the longer it waits, the more opportunity it has to keep its competitors guessing about which specs they need to compete with. To put it another way, right now, Apple clearly controls the game.
Dateline in the sand
I don't see Apple announcing the iPad mini this month, but if there's one thing I've learned in my years of covering Cupertino's every move, it's that the company doesn't always act the way you expect it to. You expect them to zig, they zag; you expect them to introduce a world-beating new product, and you get iPod socks or Ping.
I'm sure there's more behind Apple's idea of the iPad mini than what I've described here, something so clever and obvious that I'll slap my head and exclaim, "Of course! This was always the only option!" Maybe there's a key piece of information that I'm lacking that will tie this whole October launch-date scenario together. In fact, I suspect that from an inevitability-quantum-mechanics-Schrödinger's-iPad-mini standpoint, simply by putting myself out there, I've probably ensured that an Apple invitation will land in my mailbox next week.
But if that doesn't happen, just remember that you heard it here first.