iPad 3 and iPad Mini rumours suggest Apple’s in a fighting mood

10 Feb 2011

If there is any truth to the staggering suggestion that Apple will follow up the launch of its iPad 2 next month with a smaller third device, the iPad 3, later in the year, then it is a sure signal that Apple has no intention of being a minor player in the tablet computing pond.

It emerged in recent days that Apple has begun production of its iPad 2, which may be launched next week with a release date likely in March.

As HP showed off its TouchPad yesterday, suggestions of an iPad 3 emerging later in the year shot like lightning bolts across the web.

Perhaps history has something to do with this. Apple brought out the first commercially available personal computer with a GUI and a mouse in 1984, the Macintosh. It has had to put up with the indignity of legions of OEMs powered by rival operating systems, like Windows, flooding the market and forcing it into a tight corner.

It then three years ago came along and revolutionised the smartphone world with the iPhone. A mere three years later it is fighting the indignity of having to see vast armies of mobile OEMs flooding the market with smartphones powered by a rival operating system called Android which is in sight of already taking the lead in the marketplace.

And then last year it created the media tablet revolution with the iPad. At CES last month, there were at least 85 tablets – mostly Android – ready to hit shops around the world. Last night, HP’s TouchPad was debuted using the Palm webOS operating system, adding insult to injury.

Apple ready to bear its teeth

When I heard the rumours about an iPad 3 device I initially scoffed and thought these Apple fanbois need some reining in. But now on more considered reflection, maybe it’s not such a crazy idea after all. A sleeker 7-inch tablet device from Apple – even though Apple CEO Steve Jobs has ridiculed such devices – will still be a mobile internet device (MID) and therefore if created to Apple’s exacting standards, will still be a viable product.

The rumour started when a well-connected blogger called John Gruber wrote on the tardiness of manufacturers like HP bringing their competing products to market: “If my theory is right, they’re not going to be months behind the iPad 2, but if they slip until late summer, they might bump up against the release of the iPad 3.”

If this is what Apple has in mind, I’m guessing it wants to break the endless cycle of breaking through with new products and then seeing a market they have cultivated once again be flooded by legions of copycats who lack the same creativity and genius.

In the one year since the iPad was released, Apple has sold some 17.4m of the devices, bringing in revenues of US$4.6bn, or 17pc of the company’s total revenue.

Instead of being backed into a corner, the idea of an iPad 3 or iPad Mini is a sure sign Apple is in fighting form.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years