Apple Store down ahead of iPad Mini midnight preorders

Apple's online marketplace is offline, presumably as it retools to prep for consumers ordering the smaller version of its iPad tablet.

With three hours to go before the iPad Mini officially goes on sale, Apple's online store is down.

In what has become standard operating procedure for Apple before a new release, the online marketplace has gone offline, replaced with the familiar message that assures shoppers that the store will "be back" soon.

The message appears in anticipation of the iPad Mini -- 7.9-inch version of the 10-inch iPad tablet -- going on sale at midnight Pacific time. The device, which was unveiled yesterday at an event in San Jose, Calif., is expected to ship to consumers on November 2.

The iPad Mini comes in six pricing configurations. In addition to the 16GB tablet with Wi-Fi at $329, the 32GB tablet with Wi-Fi is $429, and the 64BG version is $529. For devices with Wi-Fi and 4G cellular connections, the 16GB tablet is $459, the 32GB is $559, and the 64GB is $659. These devices are shipping two weeks after their Wi-Fi-only counterparts.

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