iPad feeling the heat from tablet competitors

Rumors say Apple will offer iPad through Target and rush a camera-equipped, FaceTime-compatible iPad to fend off competitors

Apple launched the iPad tablet on April 3, 2010--so standard Apple development and product release cycles suggest we should expect the new and improved iPad v2.0 around April 2011. However, there are whispers that Apple could be breaking with tradition and expediting the new iPad for a holiday launch to head off competition from rival tablets.

The annual product lifecycle is an established doctrine for Apple. As soon as the iPhone 4 came out, the countdown to the launch of the iPhone 5 sometime in June of 2011 began. The annual product launch holds true for iPhones, iPods, and presumably iPads. It is as predictable as the sun rising, and the seasons changing...until it's not.

A post on Apple Insider states "Apple's iPad is unlikely to endure the company's traditional 12-month product cycle for iOS device refreshes before seeing its first major enhancements," adding "A version of the tablet device with a built-in video camera and support for the new FaceTime video conferencing standard has already progressed to the advanced testing stages, according to a person with proven knowledge of Apple's future product plans."

The Apple iPad has been a tremendous success. Apple sold more than three million in the first 80 days, has not been able to keep up with the demand until recently, and is predicted to sell as many as 28 million during 2011 alone. Of course, a primary component of Apple's current tablet dominance is that there is no real competition...yet.

Aggressive competition could be driving an expedited development and product release cycle for the next-generation iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is expected to launch soon in the United States, rumored to be available from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint at a subsidized price with a wireless contract a' la smartphones. HTC is also expected to launch a Chrome-based tablet through Verizon on Black Friday to kick off the holiday shopping season.

There are also rumors that Target may offer the iPad beginning in early October, though. Apple could slash the price of the first-generation iPad to spark sales rather than rushing the next-generation iPad. It would go against standard Apple business practices, but no more so than cutting the development lifecycle down from the standard year.

An article from Wired exposes some potential issues with the Apple Insider story and suggests it may be more pipe dream than rumor. But, if either or both rumors are true, it could re-ignite the iPad and take the wind out of the sails of competing tablets and enable Apple to extend its lead.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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