"We believe this will be the most important refresh of the iPad franchise for Apple since the first iPad went on sale on April 4, 2010," White wrote in a note to clients. "We believe this iPad launch will help put a bottom in the iPad sales cycle that reached negative territory in 3Q:FY13 for the first time in the history of the iPad."

But Epps of Forrester said she thinks it's going to be tough for Apple to get consumers excited based on improved features or designs.

She said adding a Retina screen to the iPad Mini will help. But she's also projecting that worldwide sales of new tablets will only grow from 143 million units in calendar year 2013 to 166 million units. 

Making this more complicated is that Apple has been steadily losing market share in tablets, as other vendors selling Android-based tablets have finally started offering viable alternatives. Apple had a 60.3% market share at the end of the June 2012 quarter. By June 2013, that had fallen to 32.5%.

It's worth noting that Apple has been emphatic about the fact that it doesn't worry a bit about market share.

But Epps said that as with smartphones, Apple is turning its back on some of the fastest-growing areas for tablets, such as emerging economies. 

"As we’ve seen with recent iPhone sales, Apple has an easier time selling high-end products like the 5s to existing customers than selling less-expensive-but-not-cheap products like the 5c to new customers," Epps said. "The low end of the market doesn’t belong to Apple, and they haven’t aggressively tried to change that."

Of course, Apple is used to proving the skeptics wrong.

And now Apple will have new iPads to tout just in time for the holiday shopping season. Its best bet for silencing the doubters this time is to post a strong couple of quarters of iPad sales.


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