Apple iPad 2 Could Ship by February 2011: Rumors

Apple's manufacturers could start shipping its next-generation iPad in February 2011, according to a new report from DigiTimes.

Apple's manufacturers could be prepping a next-generation iPad for shipment within the next 100 days, if a report from DigiTimes proves correct.

According to that publication's Dec. 7 article, "sources from Taiwan-based component makers" indicated "that the iPad 2 will ship as soon as the end of February in 2011." The report also claims "the device's firmware is currently still in testing," leading Apple to push back its production schedule from January. Expected initial shipments total about a half-million units.

As with any iPad rumor, there is a substantial margin of error. In August, DigiTimes Research predicted the next-generation iPad would feature a 7-inch screen and an ARM Cortex-A9-based processor. A few months later, during an Oct. 18 earnings call, Apple CEO Steve Jobs dismissed the idea of a 7-inch tablet as inferior to a 10-inch one. While that could have been a bit of deliberate misdirection on Jobs' part, that cycle of rumor and official refutation is endemic when it comes to Apple products.

Apple is unlikely to comment about a next-generation iPad before it hosts an actual unveiling, especially considering how any official hint of another device in the pipeline-particularly within the next 100 days-could spark a wait-and-see attitude among potential buyers.

In the meantime, Apple will likely enjoy robust sales during the holidays. "With the powerful combination of Apple's iPad, iPhone 4, refreshed iPod/iPod Touch portfolio, the new MacBook Air and Apple TV, we believe Apple is positioned for a big holiday season this year," Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, wrote in a Nov. 29 research note. "Regardless of the overall strength during Black Friday and the holiday season at large, we believe Apple has the products that consumers demand."

Research company Strategy Analytics estimates the iPad's share of the tablet market at 95.5 percent. However, the iPad also faces competition from a rising number of Android tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Research In Motion's upcoming PlayBook. The Galaxy Tab has reportedly sold more than 1 million units since its mid-November release in the United States.

Android tablets will make up 15 percent of the worldwide tablet market in 2011, on their way to a 28 percent share by 2015, predicts IMS Research. RIM's PlayBook could also present substantial competition for the iPad in the enterprise space, despite the latter's recent software updates designed to make it more appealing to IT administrators and employees.