In the modern era of the blogger, any speculation (especially about the Apple iPad) can launch a thousand rumors faster than Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships. The media is bubbling with one blogger's postulation that the iPad 3 could launch in the fall of 2011.
That isn't a typo; there is currently a whirlwind of speculation over the third generation iPad. Blogger John Gruber started all of the humdrum when he said on his site, Daring Fireball: "So, here’s my guess at Apple's iPad plans for 2011 … iPad 3, shipping in September, announced at the annual iPod event. Running iOS 5.1, same as the next-generation iPod Touch."
Gruber heavily prefaced this statement by saying that his guess really and truly was a guess, that this was a "gut feeling," and that during his site’s history he had had a tendency of "predicting what [he] hoped for, not what [he] truly expected."
Despite these qualifications, national media outlets ran with the story.
Considering that little is even known about the iPad 2, it seems foolish to make too many predictions about something that is, for all intents and purposes, currently vaporware.
However, there's no harm in healthy discussion, and if one looks past the lack of credence in Gruber's claim there are two interesting points about Apple, and the tablet market on the whole, that have arisen in the wake of the blog post.
Apple's strict adherence to release schedules might be foolish
With competition becoming steeper amongst tablets, Apple might give up some competitive advantage by rolling out iPads on a scheduled basis each spring. Other companies could cut in front of Apple's expected release dates, exploiting the company's predictability. Essentially, Apple has lost the luxury of being the only game in town.
iPads for the holidays, and the whirlwind of technological advancement
Tablet technology is advancing so quickly that waiting a few months for a new release could make a huge difference in the quality and specs of a product. As Gruber phrased it: "April is four months into the new year, but still feels like 'early' in the year. That leads to whispers and rumors during the holiday season that people should wait."
A TabletPCReview editorial last month ultimately concluded that people looking to purchase an iPad should wait for the iPad 2, considering the relative nearness of the release date, and the significantly improved processor.
Gruber made one other qualification to his claim that should be noted: "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."
One complaint about Apple's yearly or bi-yearly upgrades is that, at times, they aren't really upgrades. Since Apple releases are based on schedule, rather than technological advancement, the updates to a device between generations could be minimal, and Gruber’s above model wouldn't help mitigate that feeling amongst customers.
Gruber makes interesting points in his argument, and it's good that it has stimulated a bit of debate. However, it would be presumptive to call the claim anything other than speculation. In a few months, as the market takes shape after the release of the iPad 2 and releases from other big name companies, the iPad 3 will be a hot topic. And if it is released in the fall, that would be undeniably noteworthy, and John Gruber would deserve a lot of credit. If Apple sticks to the schedule, Gruber's speculation will turn out to have just been bad guessing.
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