Apple iPad May Launch on March 26, but 3G Might Be Delayed

Apple's iPad tablet PC could launch on March 26, according to widely circulating rumors, but 3G-equipped versions of the device may not be available until April or May. Despite the iPad having been unveiled in January, the rumor mill surrounding it continues unabated, with one analyst suggesting that production issues may limit the device's rollout. Meanwhile, Apple has been encouraging developers to download the iPhone SDK 3.2 beta in order to build a massive library of iPad-capable mobile apps, even as it starts policing the App Store for apps with controversial content.

Apple's iPad tablet PC could launch on March 26, according to the latest rumors, but 3G-capable versions will not be available until April or May. That would fall roughly within the timeframe for release proposed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his high-profile unveiling of the device in January.

These newest rumors seemed to have originated with the Examiner, which quoted "unnamed sources" and supposedly confirmed the information "with an Apple Store manager in Southern California who wishes not to be named." The Examiner further predicts that iPad commercials will begin airing a little under two weeks before the launch, on March 15. The MacRumors blog also reported hearing that the iPad would launch at retail stores on March 26, and even narrowed down the release to a time: 6 p.m.

While the iPad was notable for the sheer amount of scuttlebutt it managed to generate pre-unveiling, the revelation of the device's form-factor and capabilities has in no way dampened the online community's ability to keep generating rumors; instead of discussing its potential look, however, speculation now seems to largely focus on Apple's rollout plans and possible production snafus.

In a March 1 research note, Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek wrote that Apple was experiencing "an unspecified production problem at the iPad's manufacturer, Hon Hai Precision" and that the launch as a result would be limited to the U.S. "and the number of units available to roughly 300k in the month of March." Misek also estimated that Apple could sell as many as 1.2 million iPads in fiscal year 2010.

Apple is planning for 140,000 iPad-capable applications to be available upon the device's launch, and has been encouraging developers to download the iPhone SDK 3.2 beta in order to create additional programs for the device. Much of Apple's strength in the mobile space derives from the sheer size of its App Store mobile-applications storefront, which research firm IDC predicted will grow to 300,000 apps by the end of 2010.

With the App Store's continued growth, though, Apple has been taking steps to seemingly regulate the online storefront more stringently. Certain apps that feature explicit content have been pulled in recent weeks, a move confirmed by Philip Schiller, Apple's head of worldwide product marketing, in a Feb. 22 article in The New York Times.

Schiller said that complaints from groups that some apps were "too degrading and objectionable" had led the company to withdraw offerings by certain developers.

Attempts by Apple to police the App Store may not curb developers' enthusiasm for creating apps for the App Store, especially considering the amount of money that a bestselling app can earn on a daily basis. Mobile analytics company Flurry noted in a Feb. 12 blog posting that the number of Flurry analytics being integrated into iPhone OS applications had undergone a threefold increase between December and January, a developer spike the company attributed to "excitement generated by Apple's iPad event in January."

If the latest rumors prove true, then those developers have a little over three weeks to finish their iPad applications if they want to be part of the opening stampede.