Apple iPad 3 Must Launch in 2012 First Quarter: 10 Reasons Why

News Analysis: Apple needs to launch the iPad 3 in the first quarter of 2012-whether it wants to or not-to maintain the sales momentum of its market-leading tablet.

As the iPad 2 continues to sell well, rumors abound over when Apple will finally launch the next version of the tablet, the iPad 3. Recently, Digitimes reported thatApple will likely release the iPad 3 in the first quarter of 2012, and the device would come with a host of improvements that, given Apple's history, should ensure that the product stays atop the tablet space for the foreseeable future.

For its part, Apple hasn't said when it will launch the iPad 3. In fact, the company hasn't even said that it's working on a follow-up model to the iPad 2. But as we look ahead at the many products that will be coming to store shelves in 2012, it's clear that waiting to launch the iPad 3 until after the first quarter of 2012 would be a huge mistake on Apple's part. The smart move is to launch the device in the first quarter, as Digitimes' sources have said it will.

Read on to find out why an iPad 3 would be far more successful iflaunched in the first quarter of 2012 rather than later on in the year.

1. A design refresh is in order

When the iPad 2 launched earlier this year, it came with an awfully similar design to the original iPad. Apple likely did that to keep costs down and increase margins. But with companies like Sony innovating on tablet designs,it's time for Apple to reassert itself as the leader in that market. The sooner it does so, the better.

2. The competition is catching up

When the iPad 2 launched with a dual-core processor, dual cameras and other important features, it was leading in power. But now, devices like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and others have surpassed it. And with more tablets featuring quad-core processors being prepared for next year, Apple better get its own high-powered option on store shelves before its current device looks obsolete in comparison.

3. The Kindle Fire is catching on

If Apple didn't have a single competitor to worry about, it wouldn't need to push the next iPad to store shelves. But because of the Kindle Fire's popularity, it's timeApple regained some of the lost spotlight and drove the point home to consumers and enterprise users alike that it's still the top player in the tablet market.

4. Android is gaining some popularity

Last year, Android wasn't a concern for Apple in the tablet market. Even earlier this year, the operating system was falling short. But over the last several months, thanks to devices like the Kindle Fire and Galaxy Tab 10.1, Android is starting to gain some ground on Apple. A new iPad might be able to stymie Android's growth.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...