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With a trio of surprises, Cook and company burnish Apple

Apple introduced a long-expected iPad mini but also unexpected refreshes for its full-size iPad, 13-inch MacBook Pro and iMac. Quelle surprise!

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I'll make this quick.

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPad mini, a long-rumored and widely expected device. Though it didn't send out invitations to the press event until just a week ago, many in the tech press rightly suspected that the device was the reason for a second (live-streamed!) press event in the fourth quarter, something Apple doesn't typically do.

Here's what they didn't suspect: a new, Retina display-clad 13-inch MacBook Pro; a refreshed full-size iPad; a redesigned iMac. All in the fourth week of October.

Just two weeks ago, I wrote a piece here at ZDNet criticizing Apple for becoming sloppy with its product roll-outs. From the iPhone 5 to the Maps fiasco, the company in Cupertino has not exactly been executing at its highest level this year. It's been a bit rocky, to say the least.

The iPad mini reveal doesn't change that, but the choice of hosting a second press event during the quarter and the surprise of three additional major new products -- the iPad itself, along with a new version of its most popular laptop computer, and hey, why not a desktop computer, too? -- helps correct that a bit. Keeping those products a surprise helps preserve excitement leading into a quarter that's critical for any retailer.

These things tend to be planned well in advance, which means that Apple employees in-the-know probably smirked when they read my original piece. (C'est la vie.) So, credit where credit's due: you surprised us, Apple, just when we thought you couldn't manage it anymore.

Bravo.