Apple has apparently started production of its next-generation iPad, according to a report circulating online.
The company's newest tablet will be "thinner and lighter than the first model," unnamed sources told the Wall Street Journal Feb. 9. If the account is accurate, the next iPad will also include a front-facing camera for video conferencing, more memory, "and a more powerful graphics processor." AT&T and Verizon, which currently offer the iPhone, will carry the device.
The Journal's report appears to collaborate earlier claims that the next iPad will lack a Retina Display or similar high-resolution screen. After the publication DigiTimes suggested in late January that the next iPad would boast a screen with 2048 x 1536 resolution, IDC research manager Tom Mainelli told PC World: "Our sources say Apple has requested that manufacturers begin work on displays with that resolution for the iPad 3."
A few days later, the blog 9to5Mac posted alleged photos of the next iPad's screen. "At this point, we cannot tell if the resolution is higher (or -Retina') but it is definitely higher quality in terms of build," reads its Feb. 1 posting, accompanied by several images. "The iPad 2's display is also lighter, and over a mm thinner than the current iPad's display with a smaller surrounding frame."
Given Apple's customary refusal to offer details of its upcoming products, the blogosphere has filled with all manner of rumor about the next iPad's possible features. In a Jan. 12 posting, the blog Boy Genius Report suggested the next iPad will lack a home button, relying instead on multi-touch gestures to navigate the home screen-bringing the device's hardware in line with that of Research In Motion's upcoming PlayBook tablet, which lets users bring up the home screen with a finger-flick across the bottom of the touch-sensitive casing.
Apple is also gearing up its mobile software to compete with newcomers such as Google Android's 3.0 "Honeycomb" build. The iOS SDK 4.3 beta, currently available on Apple's developer Website, includes new capabilities such as the ability to stream video to Apple TV via AirPlay, full-screen banners in the company's iAd platform, and HTTP Live Streaming statistics.
Although the original iPad has continued its massive sales run among consumers, and the current iOS 4.2 contains features that have made it an increasing favorite among business users, Android-based tablets are expected to gain substantial market share in 2011. That could pressure Apple to release a next-generation iPad with enough new features to distinguish it from an ever-growing number of rivals-but a radically different iPad also runs the risk of alienating those customers who plunked down hundreds of dollars for the original device.
However Apple decides to walk that tightrope between its competition and its customer base, an unveiling event for the next iPad could be in the works.