Apple to uncover -- or cover -- new iPads, including Retina Mini, on Oct. 22

Analyst cracks Apple's Enigma machine, sees 'cover' in the 7-word invite and speculates on keyboards

Apple today issued invitations to an Oct. 22 event in San Francisco where analysts expect the company to reveal refreshed models for its full-sized and scaled-down iPad tablets.

The invitation sent to reporters and industry analysts was typically opaque, with one line of text -- "We still have a lot to cover" -- below a graphic of colored leaf-like objects.

Apple's minimalist copy was reminiscent of last year's "We've got a little more to show you" line, when commentators focused on the word "little" to confirm their expectations that Apple would roll out the rumored iPad Mini.

Today, some put the spotlight on "cover" in the same kind of code-breaking, playing-Kremlinologist way.

"Are they [predicting] an iPad cover?" asked Carolina Milanesi, acknowledging that she was reading into the copy, a chore Apple's forced on outsiders because of its combination of popularity -- about nearly every move, or even non-move it makes -- and its secrecy. "Are they feeling the pressure that they need to do something about hybrids, 2-in-1s, or convertibles? I don't know. But if they do something, they'll be sure to do it their own way. They always do."

It wasn't surprising that Milanesi seized on "cover," as she and other analysts saw the debut of Apple's A7, its first 64-bit system-on-a-chip (SoC) in the iPhone 5S as a clue that the Cupertino, Calif. company has bigger ambitions for its tablets. Arm an iPad with the A7, or its successor, more system memory and a keyboard-cum-cover, and Apple would have the technology to launch a new line of tablet-based devices that could replace some Intel-driven Mac personal computers, analysts have argued.

Apple could, in other words, out-Surface Microsoft's 2-in-1 Surface Pro concept.

"With a 64-bit [SoC], Apple could, if it wanted, do more with the iPad," said Milanesi. She cited other moves by the company, including giving away its iOS iWork apps to new device buyers starting Sept. 1, and the re-launch of a cloud-based iWork, as supporting a productivity push.

The launch event will begin at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a locale for several Apple product introductions, including the September 2012 roll-out of the iPhone 5, and six months earlier, the third-generation iPad, the first to sport a Retina-quality display.

Most pundits and analysts expect Apple to unveil a fifth-generation 9.7-in. iPad that will be slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor, feature an improved camera and include the A7, or a slight variation of that SoC. Those same people have also wagered that Apple will trot out a second-generation iPad Mini.

On the latter, however, analysts have split, with some believing a new Mini with a Retina-quality display is in the offing, along with a price reduction of the current model. Others, such as Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., have cited Asian sources pointing to a later launch, perhaps in early 2014, of a higher-resolution iPad Mini.

Milanesi is on the former team. "I think they'll introduce the [Retina] iPad Mini, but that it will be in short supply initially," said Milanesi today. "They may stagger the launch to the U.S. first, then other countries, like China for the Chinese New Year, later."

Also on the rumored agenda: Refreshed MacBook Pro notebooks equipped with Intel's latest Core processor, dubbed "Haswell," to match the chips in the MacBook Air line that significantly extend battery life in that line, and an announcement that OS X Mavericks will go on sale shortly, perhaps on Oct. 23.

Apple invite
Apple didn't use the word 'iPad' in its invitation for an Oct. 22 event, but everyone expects that they'll star at the San Francisco event. (Image: Apple.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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