Apple 2012: iPad 3 ships March, iPad 4 in October?

By Jonny Evans

The latest in the never-ending torrent of Apple [AAPL] rumors from Digitimes splashed down this morning, claiming we should expect two new iPad models this year -- the iPad 3 in March and an iPad 4 later in the year.

[ABOVE: Semi-amusing clip showing an iPad falling to Earth from outer space. In a bag.]

Who watches the watchmen?

Digitimes has been making numerous claims and counterclaims concerning Apple's new products in recent months. The site isn't always correct (to say the least), but does seem to have occassional insight into Apple's tablet efforts. Caveat emptor: Digitimes claims should be digested with a slab of salt.

What's the latest story?

As we've been expecting on strength of multiple sources, the iPad 3 will ship in March with a full HD display. It will boast: "A QXGA (1,536x2,048 pixels) display and longer battery life although its other hardware specifications may not be so amazing as expected."

The iPad nemesis? It's D.O.A.

Apple will couple the introduction of the iPad 3 with a nice and deep $100 price discount on the iPad 2, tearing another chunk out of competitors sandwiched between iPad and Kindle Fire price points when it does. The iPad 2 will cost $399, according to Digitimes.

"Currently, the non-Apple camp is maneuvering in the US$199-399 range. If Apple drops its iPad price to US$299, it could seriously affect the non-Apple camp's pricing strategy and even Amazon's Kindle could also be affected."

If true, Apple's move should help it consolidate its offering across the rest of the year, battling an increasingly desperate and competitive gaggle of table competitors, soon to include Google with its own device.

Better camera, too

Along with an improved processor, a series of Tweets from iLounge editor, Jeremy Horowitz, adds numerous additional details concerning the next-gen iPad 3.

This will include a much-improved camera, including a FaceTime HD camera and an 8-megapixel sensor. There's a downside, the devices might be up to 1mm thicker. And will include a Retina Display.

In the run up to the Christmas 2012 market, Apple has a plan to introduce an iPad 4. Scheduled (Digitimes claims) for October launch, this is expected to deliver better hardware and a series of built-in apps which set the template for a new category of PC-beating tablet.

This kind of design trajectory for the iPad makes sense. Where the first-generation iPad was slammed as not being a creative tool, the apps market birthed a range of creative tools. Now as we look to a Post-PC planet, it seems inevitable to me that iPads will become ever more capable machines.

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Apple, king of the Post-PC hill

It can't be too long now until IDC and Gartner bite the bullet to join Canalys in counting tablets as PCs. As previously discussed, counting tablets as PCs means Apple will beat HP to become the world's biggest PC manufacturer at some point this year.

In other words, Apple has successfully managed to turn itself around from a failing computer company into becoming the world's biggest PC vendor.

A move to make future iPads ever more powerful makes philosophical sense. It gives Apple a chance to take a look at the Google tablet offering, and choose not to copy any of its patented features. It also allows Apple to compete head-on with Windows 8 and the Intel Clover Trail-W platform.

There's a Ninja at the wheel

There's something else. If you've been watching how Apple operates in recent months you might have witnessed a change in its M.O.

The company no longer seems happy to stick to a predictable product release pattern -- it chooses when to launch devices based on its own agenda, not some news editor-kept diary: some iDevices might be upgraded more often than others, and actual schedules are kept close to the corporate chest.

This is good practice as the industry becomes ever more competitive, and gives the firm a chance to out-maneuver the opposition, who sit on the sidelines ready to "borrow" design ideas from Apple.

Competitors feed from Apple's design ideas in a desperate attempt to remain relevant to a fast-changing industry they cannot quite get their heads around. You deny this? Take a look at this informative site.

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