iPad HD Launching March 16: Report

Apple will unveil the next iPad March 7 but actually launch it March 16, according to a new report.

Apple will launch the new iPad March 16, according to a report on the blog 9to5Mac.

The blog drew its information from an unnamed source associated with the Apple Store. In essence, that means the next iPad will launch nine days after Apple€™s March 7 event in San Francisco, when it€™s popularly expected the company will actually unveil the device.

Thanks to a Gizmodo posting, rumors are also building that the tablet will be called €œiPad HD,€ as opposed to the €œiPad 3€ moniker used for months by the media and tech pundits. The next iPad will supposedly feature a high-resolution €œRetina Display,€ backed by a more powerful processor and support for 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE), which in turn would lend some credence to that €œHD€ tag. Sources such as Apple Insider have also suggested that the next iPad could receive a significant update to iOS.

The rumor mill itself has become so superheated that even Apple€™s invitation to the event proved capable of sparking endless speculation. €œWe have something you really have to see. And touch,€ read that missive, which included an image of a finger touching the calendar app on an iPad screen. Within hours, tech blogs began speculating on everything from the resolution of the screen in the image to the possible lack of a home button.

Although the iPad has managed to dominate the consumer tablet market, it faces two threats in 2012. The first comes from Microsoft, which intends to challenge Apple in a big way with Windows 8 on tablets. Reportedly due closer to the end of the year, Windows 8 features an interface optimized for touch input; moreover, a variety of developers and manufacturing partners are committed to creating software and hardware for the ecosystem, which could give Microsoft the momentum that other iPad competitors have lacked.

In addition, Google and its own manufacturing partners show no signs of abating their collective quest to make Android a tablet player, despite the anemic performance of many supposed €œiPad killers€ that hit the marketplace in 2011.

One of the lingering questions revolves around the next iPad€™s cost. The Apple-centric blogs have been all over the place on that one, with some (including MacRumors, drawing information from Chinese microblog Sina Weibo) suggesting a slight uptick in sticker price, while 9to5Mac insists it will remain the same as the iPad 2.

But actual answers will need to wait until March 7, when Apple kicks off its event at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

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