Apple's next iPad will launch in March or April, according to a new report in the Taiwanese publication DigiTimes.
That Dec. 12 report cited unnamed "sources in the supply chain" for the information, adding: "The next generation iPads are expected to be available in the next 3-4 months as makers in the supply chain have started delivering parts and components for the new tablets to OEM contractors while reducing those prepared for iPad 2."
If that report proves accurate, it would mean Apple is indeed sticking to the same release cadence as the previous iPad versions, both of which hit the market early in their respective launch years.
Other sources, including the blog 9to5Mac, have compiled rumors over the past few months indicating that Apple is planning on some sort of higher-resolution display for the next iPad, possibly of the same quality as the "retina display" currently available in later-model iPhones. Earlier this year, the blog TechUnwrapped featured screenshots from the iOS SDK indicating higher-resolution settings for popular apps.
The next iPad will face a somewhat different competitive market than its predecessors. For one thing, Amazon's newly released Kindle Fire boasts a significant chance of dinging the iPad's overall sales, according to some analysts.
"With our expectations for a new iPad launch during the March quarter leading to potentially lower inventory levels combined with increased competition from the $200 Kindle Fire," T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, wrote in a Dec. 5 research note, "we have slightly lowered our December quarter iPad estimates from 14M to 13M units."
Despite the pressure from the Kindle Fire, he added, "we believe the iPad will continue to dominate both market share and value share of the growing tablet market."
Others believe the iPad franchise will continue to hold the line against its competitors, including the Kindle Fire.
"If anything, we believe that Apple is not too concerned about the low-priced entrants," Mark Moskowitz, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, wrote in a Dec. 2 research note. "Recall, it has been our view that low-priced, reduced feature-set entrants, such as the Kindle Fire, are soap box derby devices stuck between a tablet and an e-reader."
In other words, he concluded, "we are not concerned much about competitive pressures until the second or third generations."
A next-generation iPad with a radically upgraded feature set could also force tablet competitors into playing catch-up, in turn kicking off yet another year of renewed competition.