|[Update: now confirmed, Retina iPad mini now available] Earlier on Monday, an internal memo on Apple's own GSX website for repair providers advised that the Retina iPad mini was to launch in seven countries on Tuesday, November 12. Shortly afterwards, online Apple Stores around the world went down for unspecified maintenance, leading many to think that the date may be correct.
As Tuesday has already come and (largely) gone in some of the countries mentioned in the GSX memo -- including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and China -- the date could also be a typo. Also on the list was of course the United States, but somewhat surprisingly not Canada or the UK, usually in the first tier of countries to get new Apple product. The memo also stated that China, alone among the debut countries, would only get the "Wi-Fi only" version of the iPad mini, suggesting that a version of the tablet compatible with China's LTE and 3G systems is not yet ready for large-scale deployment.
Apple had not announced a firm debut date for the Retina iPad mini except to say that the product was coming "later this November." Rumors have circulated that the reason for the delay compared to the iPad Air is that the Mini's Retina screen is using new technology from Sharp that is suffering from low yields of quality displays that meet Apple's standards.
The downtime in the late hours of Monday into early Tuesday may be in preparation for the flood of online orders that will accompany Apple's official availability for the Retina iPad mini, or just early preparations for the coming Christmas shopping season. Buyers are thought to have made last year's original iPad mini the top-selling iPad model by a wide margin -- though now that the full-size and Mini variants share a similarly thin and light high-resolution screen, the only effective difference between the two models is screen size and price tag, making the choice easier -- or perhaps harder -- for potential buyers.