According to MacRumors, Apple began shipping new products from manufacturing plants to arrive in the United States, in its warehouses. Nature of shipments is not known, but it can be guessed. Apple will announce a new iPad mini Retina and iPad Air next Thursday during a keynote. We doubt that either one or both are part of the expeditions sent "in large quantities" according to the website.
Release dateA release date is announced, namely October 24. For now, Apple does not disclose the subject knowing that its new iPad have not been formally introduced. This is quite likely, it follows Apple's logic, ie advertise a product and offer it pretty quickly thereafter. Apple has a habit out its products a Friday, October 24 falls just a Friday.
There are some exceptions to the rule though. The Mac Pro or Apple Watch were announced respectively in June 2013 and September 2014. The computer has been offered for sale in December 2013, the connected watch is expected in early 2015. Last year, the iPad Air was announced on October 22 with availability (Friday) November 1st. The iPad mini Retina happened after because of insufficient stock.
It could be that Apple offers pre-orders, as the firm does for its iPhone at launch. The detail is not known at this time. Apple will say more after tomorrow.