Apple has issued invites for a March 2 media event centered on the iPad.
The invite itself features an iOS calendar icon for March 2, its upper-right corner peeling away to reveal the edge of an iPad. The general presumption among media and bloggers is that Apple will use this event to unveil the next-generation iPad, possibly with a thinner body and new hardware such as a front-facing camera.
Apple's invites began arriving a day after All Things D reported, based on conversations with unnamed "multiple sources," that Apple would unveil the next-generation iPad March 2. The New York Times also reported that date, but neither publication suggested a timeframe for the device hitting store shelves.
Current theories suggest the next iPad will be lighter and slimmer than the original, with the aforementioned front-facing camera, and more memory. However, sources dispute whether the device will feature a Retina Display or similar high-resolution screen. "Our sources say Apple has requested that manufacturers begin work on displays with that resolution for the iPad 3," IDC research manager Tom Mainelli told PC World, following a DigiTimes report that the next iPad would boast a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536.
Apple sold nearly 15 million iPads in 2010, supercharging a consumer tablet market in which other competitors, including Samsung and Research In Motion, desperately want a substantial presence. The next-generation iPad will have to compete with Samsung's Galaxy Tab, RIM's PlayBook, Motorola's Xoom and Dell's Streak 7, among other devices. While many of the iPad's rivals use Google Android, both RIM and Hewlett-Packard are developing tablets with proprietary operating systems.
The question now is whether Apple CEO Steve Jobs will headline the March 2 event, despite being on open-ended medical leave for undisclosed health issues. During his absence, Apple COO Tim Cook is responsible for the company's day-to-day operations.
"I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011," Jobs wrote in a Jan. 17 e-mail announcing his departure. "I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can."
Cook took the stage at New York City's Time Warner Center Jan. 11 to help unveil the Verizon iPhone, suggesting he is more than capable of doing the same for Apple's next great tablet hope. The question is whether Jobs, recently seen dining with President Obama, will feel the urge (and healthy enough) to handle such a momentous event in person.