Apple's next iPad could cost a premium over the current version, at least according to a pricing sheet that appeared on Chinese microblog Sina Weibo.
The Apple-centric blog MacRumors drilled down into that sheet in a Feb. 27 posting. "The iPad 3 costs $80 more for the equivalent Wi-Fi models," it concluded, "and $70 more for the equivalent 3G models."
Meanwhile, Best Buy and other retailers have begun to lower their iPad 2 prices, a traditional indicator that the release of a new version is indeed imminent. All of Best Buy's models have taken a $50 haircut irrespective of memory capacity and options.
If the iPad 3 indeed costs a bit more than the iPad 2, Apple might justify that price hike on the basis of the next-generation tablet's features, which reports indicate will include a high-resolution display, more powerful camera and upgraded processor. On Feb. 9, AllThingsD reported that the iPad 3's screen would indeed feature 2,048-by-1,536 resolution, along with an improved graphics processing unit paired to a faster chip.
Some of those rumors have also derived from Sina Weibo, which recently offered up a purported image of the iPad 3's front assembly.
"The part appears nearly identical to that of the iPad 2," the blog MacRumors reported Feb. 21, "with the major distinguishing feature being a relatively long ribbon cable extending up the side of the display as opposed to a shorter cable with a sideways orientation seen in the iPad 2."
Pundits and tech media widely expect Apple to unveil the iPad 3 during the first week of March. As a whole, the iPad franchise enters 2012 in a particularly strong market position. Throughout 2011, other tablets have plunged into the tablet arena with huge advertising budgets and the stated aim of becoming an "iPad killer," only to find apathetic customers and a general lack of buzz.
"Our checks indicate modest sales of most competing tablet offerings including the Motorola Xyboard, RIM PlayBook, HTC View 4G, Samsung Galaxy tab and several other Android based devices," T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, wrote in a Jan. 24 research note. "Also consistent with our checks, the Amazon Kindle Fire did not adversely impact iPad sales but more likely had a greater impact on e-reader sales."
Apple's next big tablet challenge might come in late 2012, when it will face Windows 8 on Microsoft and its manufacturing partners.