Though the iPad still holds a commanding lead in the burgeoning tablet market, 2011 promises to be an ultra-competitive year for tablets with devices from HP, RIM, and Motorola on the horizon. Apple will also be upping the ante with the forthcoming release of the iPad 2, rumored to drop in either late March or early April.
For the time being, though, Apple remains in the driver’s seat. Intriguing tablets like the HP TouchPad and RIM Playbook still lack a release date while current tablet offerings have been panned by critics and users alike. But if you think Apple is just sitting back and growing fat on the success of the current iPad, think again.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball theorizes that Apple may shift the iPad release schedule from April to September, alongside the release of upgraded iPods. Apple obviously isn’t going to wait until then to release the iPad 2, prompting Gruber to speculate that Apple will release an iPad 2, per its annual release cycle, sometime in April, soon to be followed by an iPad 3 release this Fall.
How could Apple release a third-generation iPad just six months or so after the second one? Maybe it won’t be an actual next generation model. Maybe it’s more like an iPad 2.5, or iPad 2 Pro — a new higher-end model that sits atop the iPad product family, not a replacement for the iPad 2 models (which, of course, haven’t even been released yet).
Interesting, and as Gruber next points out, two iPad models in the pipeline might help explain why we’ve heard so many conflicting reports about the next-gen iPad. From the inclusion of a Retina Display and an SD Card slot, rumors about what features the forthcoming iPad will showcase have been all over the map, and more often than not, at odds with each other.
Though the iPhone got off to an incredible head start, we all saw how quickly a compelling platform like Android was able to make up ground. That said, it’s completely plausible to assume that Apple won’t hesitate to release two distinct iPad models within 6 months of each other. Gruber aptly sums things up, stating, “They’re not going to leave any gas in the tank pushing the iPad hardware specs forward as fast as they can.”
Gruber offers the caveat that his theory is merely the result of guesswork, but Gruber may be smarter than he realizes. MG Siegler of TechCrunch reports, citing a very good source, that Apple will, as expected, release an iPad 2 in the coming weeks only to blow the roof off this Fall with the iPad 3, set for an unveiling sometime this September.
Whether the third iteration iPad will be dubbed the iPad 3 or perhaps an iPad Pro remains to be seen, but it makes a whole lot of sense for Apple to expand the iPad family to include multiple members at various pricepoints to prepare for an onslaught of tablet competition in the coming months.
Let the games begin.