Verizon iPhone Unveiled, Apple Likely Prepping iPad 2, New MacBooks

Apple unveiled the Verizon iPhone 4 Jan. 11, which means it's time for analysts to focus more intensely on possible release dates for the next iPad and MacBooks.

Now that Apple has finally unveiled the long-anticipated iPhone 4, attention is inevitably shifting to the next-generation iPad and other products the company may have in the pipeline.

Apple and Verizon unveiled a CDMA-based (Code Division Multiple Access-based) iPhone 4 at a high-profile event Jan. 11 in New York City. The announcement broke AT&T's exclusive lock on the smartphone in the United States. Analysts generally seem to believe the Verizon deal will benefit Apple, which faces enthusiastic competition from the growing family of Google Android devices, Windows Phone 7 and Research In Motion's BlackBerry franchise.

In a Jan. 11 note, research firm IHS iSuppli forecast that Apple would ship 12.1 million CDMA iPhones through Verizon and other global CDMA wireless carriers in 2011.

However well the Verizon iPhone sells on the marketplace, Apple doubtlessly has other products in the pipeline for the next few months-and analysts seem to be focusing their attention on possible roadmaps.

"Moving beyond the Verizon announcement, we eventually look forward to news surrounding 1QFY11 earnings next week (1/18), the iPad 2, new MacBook Pro and further developments in China," Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White wrote in a Jan. 11 research note circulated to media. "With Motorola Mobility expected to launch the Xoom in February, we believe that Apple would be well-suited to announce the iPad 2 before the end of January in an effort to persuade consumers to wait for the new iPad that we believe will be launched in March/April."

Although Apple has yet to announce a next-generation iPad, the rumor mill has already kicked into high gear. In December, DigiTimes suggested the company was ramping up a high rate of production for its upcoming tablet: "Apple's orders of iPad 2 are expected to top 6 million units a month, compared to a volume of 4 million units a quarter for the current version ... pushing Apple to expand the number of touch-panel suppliers."

DigiTimes quoted unnamed industry sources for that news. Other rumors have suggested the next-generation iPad will include features, ranging from front- and rear-mounted cameras to a high-definition Retina Display, mirroring in many ways the same overheated conjecture that anticipated the unveiling of the first iPad in January 2010.

Whatever Apple's plans, it faces increased competition in the tablet space, with manufacturers ranging from Motorola to Toshiba and Samsung all planning to roll out devices within the next few months. Apple also faces a growing number of Google Android devices from those companies. And despite its lack of a prominent Windows-powered tablet, Microsoft in conjunction with its manufacturing partners seems intent on offering a range of laptops that imitate the MacBooks' thinness and power.

In other words, Apple has big plans for 2011-but also faces intense competition.