Is Apple's iPad 3 Debut Right Around the Corner?


If you are one of the faithful waiting patiently for peelings of news about the new iPad from big Apple (NAS: AAPL) , then listen up -- but with one ear only, as this is strictly a rumor. According to AppleInsider, photos of a shipping manifest from Apple contractor Foxconn shows that the iPad 3 is on its way to the U.S. from China and should be here by March 9.

The Apple rumor mill is one of the most active in the industry and has been spitting out tidbits regarding the next generation of iPads for some time now. Lately, however, speculation has been enhanced, perhaps because of the notion that Apple might roll out the newest iPad on the late Steve Jobs' birthday, which was Feb. 24. Of course, that didn't happen, and the next best bet became March 7 -- Wednesdays in early March historically being the company's favorite time to announce new products. Apple itself, secretive to its core, has not commented on any of these rumors.

Whether this latest rumor turns out to be true remains to be seen, but there is an additional bit that may lend credence to this newest gossip. Retail giant Meijer cut iPad 2 prices by 70% two weeks ago, and Big Buy followed suit this past weekend, offering a discount of 50%. Why would they do that, the thinking goes, unless the sequel was imminent?

While speculation of this type is fun, it doesn't seem necessary to plump up sales of Apple's IPad products. Forecasts for sales of the iPad 2 for 2011 were estimated to be around 40 million, based upon half-year sales, and there's reason to think that the new generation may surpass those numbers for this year: In addition to the throngs of individual iPad users, the corporate and government sectors are also supporting the iPad. Research In Motion's (NAS: RIMM) BlackBerry, once the gold standard for both public and private entities, is steadily being replaced by the iPad because of RIM's refusal to update its signature device. Notable defectors include Halliburton, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Air Force.

In line with Apple's hush-hush philosophy, no one is entirely sure exactly what features will be bundled into the new iPad. ZDnet rounds up some of the rumors: a quad-core processor, a downsized dock connector, and, the piece de resistance, Retina Display. The only thing that everyone seems sure of is that it will be an improvement on the iPad 2.

I admit I've often wondered who is at the bottom of Apple rumors, since someone "familiar with Apple's plans" or something similar is generally identified as the source. If Apple is the source of the scuttlebutt, then the company is certainly full of marketing geniuses, in more ways than one. Looking closely at all of these information sources, no one mentions the price of the new device. Apparently, they don't need to, as droves of iPad lovers are salivating at the very thought of purchasing the new one, regardless of cost.

Foolish take
Apple has been on a tear lately, and this brouhaha is likely to make things even crazier. The company's stock closed over $522 per share on Friday, and I predict that when these new rumors really get traction it will go even higher. Even gargantuans like Google (NAS: GOOG) ,
with its plans to take on the iPad 3 with its own tablet offering in April, can't slow Cupertino down. Keep an eye on these guys -- it's looking like a wild time ahead.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAmanda Alixowns no shares in the companies mentioned above.The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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