iPad Rumors Suggest Thinner, Lighter Version for March

A March release would come just five months after the latest version of the iPad was launched.

Even around the holidays the Apple rumor mill never stops turning, as a report in Japanese blog Macotakara, picked up and translated by 9to5Mac, suggested Apple will release a thinner, lighter version of its 9.7-in. iPad tablet in March of 2013.

A March release would come just five months after the latest version of the iPad was launched—a debut that coincided with the release of the 7-in. iPad mini tablet. The Macotakara report also said Apple is working on the next edition of the iPad mini, which would feature the company’s high resolution Retina display.

The iPad mini is a notable success for Apple, which saw the company following other tablet manufactures into the 7-in. tablet space. The move was cited by some analysts as unusual, as Apple usually stakes out new territory and waits for the competition to catch up.The 7-inch tablet, which starts at $329, has been even more successful than Apple anticipated, according to a blog post from NPD DisplaySearch, which reported Apple planned to sell 6 million units in 2012, but the company is asking panel makers to ship more than 12 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 to fulfill the strong demand.

While the iPad Mini was criticized as too expensive for the 7-inch segment of the tablet PC market, given competition from other devices, including the Amazon Kindle Fire, Google Nexus, Asus tablets and others, David Hsieh, vice president of the greater China market for NPD DisplaySearch, wrote there is always a strong base of customers who only want Apple products, and noted the iPad Mini was recently voted one of the hottest consumer products of 2012 in Japan.

The tech publication DigiTimes reported that unnamed sources in Apple’s iPad Mini supply chain confirm that Apple will ship 8 million iPad Mini units but could have shipped 12 million if Apple would have been able to secure enough displays.The device's display is a difficult element to manufacture, due to the high-resolution and low-power consumption requirements, as well as wide viewing angle and high color saturation specifications, which require additional photomask steps in the manufacturing process. More mask steps means longer production times and lower yield rates.

However, the DigiTimes sources also said they expect Apple to ship 13 million iPad minis in the first quarter 2013 alone, which will allow Apple to climb past the 20 million mark for all of 2013 as NDP DisplaySearch forecast earlier this year.