It’s been an ongoing debate between reporters and analysts ever since the release of the first-generation iPad mini last October: Will the second-generation iPad mini release with a Retina display or not?

As the rumors continue oscillating, Reuters on Wednesday said the iPad mini with Retina display will be “unable to widely roll out” in October, according to people working in Apple’s supply chain.

The sharp quality of the Retina display was the single missing ingredient from the original iPad, and soon after its release date, rumors of the iPad mini 2 with Retina display began almost immediately, and continued throughout the course of 2013.

Most people were quick to assume Apple could produce a Retina display for its iPad mini 2, but doubt began to settle in after AnandTech suggested Apple might have a difficult time implementing a Retina display in the iPad mini since the high-density screen would require a more robust battery and processor, which would no doubt lead to sacrifices in the iPad mini’s thinness and lightness.

By May, analysts were flip-flopping over whether or not the iPad mini 2 would release with a Retina display. On one hand, all Apple needs to do is improve the iPad's screen, but on the other hand, Apple was unable to introduce a Retina display on its full-sized iPad until the third-generation release in March 2012.

The problem is, if Apple can’t release an iPad mini 2 with Retina display this fall, the company will, for the first time, be at a disadvantage compared to other sharp-looking tablets on the market, including Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX and Google’s new Nexus 7, which both feature screen densities over 300 ppi; the iPad mini display only features 163 ppi. These tablets aren’t as popular as the iPad mini, but if Apple doesn’t have a strong entrant for this year’s holiday season, Apple may lose major ground (see: market share), or worse, public favor.

What Happens If Apple Can't Release The iPad Mini With Retina Display?

Apple holds itself to incredibly high standards, but so do consumers. It’ll be a major disappointment if Apple can’t release an iPad mini 2 with Retina display by the end of 2013, but if the tablet isn’t ready, Apple won’t release an unfinished product just to sate consumer demand.

We’ve heard rumors saying Apple might instead release another iPad mini sans Retina display, but this would only make sense if Apple made this tablet thinner and lighter -- we haven’t seen any leaks of such a tablet. On the contrary, the only leaks of an alleged iPad mini 2 have featured the exact same form factor as the original, which suggests consumers may get the iPad mini with Retina display in 2013 after all.

If the leaks are real, and Apple plans to release another iPad mini with the same form factor, either the tablet features a Retina display, or Apple plans to sweeten the offer with much-improved specs, or possibly even Touch ID. Maybe it’ll even use the same strategy Apple applied to the iPhone 5s and sell the iPad mini 2 in gold. Or maybe, Apple will release all of the above.

There’s been talk of Apple planning to release another iPad mini without a Retina display in October, which might be a lower-cost iPad option for consumers (sub-$300) if Apple chooses to also release the iPad mini with Retina display. That way, the iPad mini 2 with Retina display is still the “luxury” option, while a “basic” iPad mini could help bridge the gap for interested consumers that can’t quite afford the higher-end tablets but still want an Apple product.

But if Apple can’t deliver an iPad mini with Retina display this holiday season, the company better have something else special up its sleeve for its October event – possibly a new-and-improved Apple TV experience, or possibly even a reveal of the long-awaited iWatch.

iPad Mini 2 Release Date Nears: What To Expect

The second-generation iPad mini will probably not look any different from its predecessor, but at worst, it will release with a handful of upgraded specs; at best, it will release with a 7.9-inch Retina display. Considering how the first iPad mini ran on a dual-core A5 chip, we expect Apple to give the iPad mini a big upgrade in the processor department -- likely the A6 chip from last year's iPhone 5 release. However, if the iPad mini features an A6 chip and not an A7 chip, then it's doubtful the mini iPad will release with Touch ID, since that technology is specific to the A7 chip

As for a release date for the new iPad mini, we believe Apple will hold its October event on Tuesday, Oct. 22, which will give Apple a chance to reveal the next-generation iPads before they launch the following week; we believe Apple has chosen the release date for both new tablets to be Friday, Nov. 1. But prior to that release date, we expect Apple to unleash a handful of new hardware and software products, including OS X Mavericks (introduced this summer at WWDC 2013), new Mac computers (Retina MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Pro), and possibly some new Apple TV hardware.

What do you think of the iPad mini 2? Will you be disappointed if Apple can’t release the new iPad mini with a Retina display? Sound off in the comments section below.

Follow Dave Smith on Twitter