Acknowledging that the iPad-related rumors come from trustworthy people but are nonetheless "hard to swallow," iLounge is using informed speculation to suggest that any iPad released in the short term may not represent Apple's initial ambitions for its first major refresh of the tablet.
Its sources believe both production and component supply issues (like those Apple reportedly ran into while attempting to secure enough Retina-like displays) may have prompted the company to conceive an interim solution, which could be announced as early as next week in the form of a revised first-generation iPad with a slightly tweaked design and a front facing video camera.
As such, the publication references an AppleInsider report from last September which mentioned that Apple would race to market with a revised iPad featuring FaceTime capabilities, ahead of its traditional 12-month product cycle for iOS devices. It therefore suggest this model may be "a stop-gap measure" to fill the void ahead of the true second-generation iPad, which is unlikely to debut until later this year at the earliest.
This theory coincides with claims reported last week by AppleInsider, who was told by Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities -- an analyst who has proven sources in Apple's supply chain -- that a successive iPad 3 model would deliver a screen with Retina Display-like quality and resolution doubled to 2048x1536 via a new a 9.7 inch IPS panel with FFS (fringe-field switching) technology, which enables a wider viewing angle and clearer visual quality under in sunlight.
Kuo explained that the so-called iPad 2 expected to be announced next week isn't getting the new panel yet because of limited manufacturing yield rates. "At this point," he said, "making a high resolution and bright IPS/FFS panel is not easy and the production volume and cost couldn’t meet Apple’s requirements."
Still, iLounge isn't sure "whether Apple is going to release the iPad 1.5 now and call it the iPad 2, hold off a few months and release something dramatically better, or hold off a few months and release the iPad 1.5."
A mockup of the next 'interim' iPad, rumored for introduction next week.
"The sources strongly believe that Apple cannot possibly ship enough truly 'new' iPads to meet a late March or early April release date," the report states. "One expects that Apple will only preview the next iPad at next week’s event, then release it widely around June. A price drop for the current model would keep sales flowing until then."
There's also the possibility that Apple could next week introduce FaceTime iPads as a premium models that would supplement the existing first generation units, if production problems did indeed prevent the company from producing enough new iPads to meet overall demand for the tablet.
However, both AppleInsider and the Loop yesterday issued independently-sourced reports that suggest reports of significant delays are not accurate. Specifically, AppleInsider cited Kuo as saying that Apple partner Foxconn plans to make 4.5 to 5 million iPad 2 units in the first quarter of 2011 and 3 to 4 million units in April. By way of comparison, Apple produced 3 to 4 million units of the original iPad ahead of last year's launch in April, the analyst said.
Meanwhile, the same report acknowledges that the MacBook Pros Apple is due to launch tomorrow represent an incremental update to the existing aluminum unibody models that have been around for over two years.
"Next year is the year when Apple will introduce an all new design for the MacBook Pro product family, which is already under development at Quanta in Taiwan," the report says, reminding readers that Apple likes to overhaul the industrial design of its most popular Macs every 2 to 3 years.
A photo showing the port makeup (and new high-speed "ThunderBolt" connector) of new 13-inch MacBook Pros due tomorrow.
While no further details on that matter were reported, AppleInsider recently noted that Apple's new line of redesigned MacBook Airs are serving as an indicator for the future direction of the company's notebooks in general, with features such as instant-on, standard SSD drives, slimmer enclosures, and the omission of optical drives expected to become more prevalent in many of the models planned for future design cycles over the next 12 to 18 months.