Apple iPad Rumors Suggest Dual Docking Ports, Smaller Size

iPad rumors suggest that future versions of the mobile device could be smaller and come with dual docking ports. Apple is keeping predictably quiet about its tablet plans, however.

Apple iPad rumors are circulating yet again across the Web, focused this time on potential features for a second generation of the device.

Much of the fuel from those rumors comes from Mission Repair, a tech-repair company that blogged an image of an iPad rear cover equipped with dual docking ports. By late afternoon Oct. 7, the Mission Repair's blog seemed to be out of commission, possibly due to heavy traffic. Apple-centric Websites such as Apple Insider, however, reposted the image. Whether dual docking ports will actually be present in the second-generation iPad is a question to which only Apple knows the answer, but a second, landscape-oriented dock could allow users to watch video on the iPad while it sits in the connector.

"If the pictured component is legitimate," read an Oct. 7 post on Apple Insider, "it's unknown whether it is a part from an upcoming next-generation iPad, or if it is an unused concept from an early prototype before the iPad was introduced early this year."

Apple Insider and other news outlets have also been reporting an analyst prediction, from Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities, that more than 45 million iPad units will be shipped in 2011. Apple could also be readying a 7-inch iPad for launch in early 2011. White apparently made his predictions after speaking with component suppliers in Taipei.

Rampant speculation about the next-generation iPad and next-year iPad sales is the inevitable offshoot of the tablet's popularity. According to a research note from Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan, sales of iPads are currently outpacing sales of both iPhones and DVD players. McGranahan suggested that tablets are likely to become the country's fourth-largest consumer electronics category, after televisions, smartphones and notebooks.

The iPad's current sales rate is 4.5 million units per quarter, McGranahan wrote, predicting that sales of the device will reach about $9 billion in 2011.

However, the question will be whether Apple can maintain that sort of sales pace once competing tablets, many from top-shelf competitors such as Samsung, begin to saturate the market over the next few quarters. The Android-running Samsung Galaxy Tab is scheduled to debut in fall 2010, on four carriers, and both Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion are working on tablets that use proprietary operating systems. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has also said Windows-powered tablets will start entering the market by the end-year holidays.