Apple launches are not usually subtle affairs. The press is often sent cryptic invites, as if they were being summoned to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The launches have even been immortalized in cinematic form, thanks to the efforts of Hollywood's own tech investor, Mr. Ashton Kutcher.

That is why everyone was flummoxed when the new iPad mini with Retina display just showed up overnight on the Apple website — no official announcement, no dramatic unveiling, nothing. This just might be the quietest Apple product release ever.

What's the deal? Is Apple just trying to be cool, like a bar with no sign in front?

According to the company, the new iPad mini is in "limited supply" and "high demand." That corresponds with reports in October that Apple might be facing serious supply constraints surroundings its new, smaller Retina displays.

"Given the time required to ramp up screen production, a Retina display-equipped iPad mini would not be available in large volumes until early next year," sources told Reuters, adding that they "expected Apple to either wait until early next year for a full-fledged launch of a retina display iPad mini, or to make a Retina version only available in limited quantities before the end of the year."

Apparently, the Cupertino-based company decided it was worth it to release at least some of its new iPad minis before the holidays to compete with other high-resolution, 7-inch tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX and Google's Nexus 7.

So far, thanks to its stealthy release, there are no substantial reviews of the new iPad mini. But its specs do look pretty impressive, although its $399 starting price for the 16GB, Wi-Fi-only model (compared to $229 for the Kindle Fire HDX) might be a bit steep for some people.

Still, it will almost certainly sell out thanks to its:

    • 7.9-inch Retina display
    • A7 processor, which is also used in the new iPhone 5s and iPad Air
    • The promise of Wi-Fi speeds that are twice as fast as those of its predecessor

The price starts climbing once you start adding things like more memory and 4G LTE connectivity, topping out at $829. At the same time, the old iPad mini is getting a slight price cut, to $299, from $329.

Or you could just cough up $499 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi-only iPad Air. Either way, Apple will probably be enjoying a very profitable holiday season.