Rumor: iPad 3 production has begun -- Bloomberg

By Jonny Evans

Call it the rumor that will never die, but it's back to walk among us, with Bloomberg telling us Apple [AAPL] has flicked the switch and iPad 3 manufacturing has already begun, with the product set to ship in March (as many have claimed).

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iPad attack

Does this mean Apple's executive team will be preparing to host a Judas Priest-like launch party featuring rubber-clad dancers, motorbikes and black leather to introduce its new quad-core speed demon? I don't think so, that's more a kind of late-90's CES product presentation. The reports do lead me to anticipate a February or early March unveiling of the new product, with the new devices reaching the hands of Apple-hungry punters a few weeks later.

What's being discussed?

  • We're being told the following: The new iPad features:
  • Retina Display (double the resolution of the existing model)
  • A quad-core A6 processor.
  • It will also feature (in some models) support for LTE, a faster mobile broadband standard that's being rolled-out to many international markets this year.

Conceivably, the LTE support will also extend to plain old 3G for those carriers and countries which haven't yet deployed these next-gen networks.

Quad-core speed demon

"The company's manufacturing partners in Asia started ramping up production of the iPad 3 this month and plan to reach full volumes by February, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the details aren't public. The tablet will use a quad-core chip, an enhancement that lets users jump more quickly between applications, two of the people said." (Source: Bloomberg).

This chimes with a December report. "Apple supplier Pegatron suffered an explosion this weekend, in which 61 workers got hurt. The facility is understood to be being re-tooled for a new product refresh in 3-4 months, approximate to the anticipated schedule for release of the iPad 3."

Why has production started now? Because the Chinese new year celebrations will run between January 22-28. This means the Apple factories are running 24-hour shifts at the moment, the report explains.

The perfect thin client

We've been hearing reports of a March introduction for Apple's latest industry-defining product for months. The presence of new and faster processors, a super high-res display and LTE also means the device will be the best iCloud client out there, and with Apple and partners likely to introduce a host of iCloud-enabled apps in the year ahead, this iPad will be the one to beat. Competitors will be cowering as they wait to find out just how high a standard Apple intends to set in this iteration.

Despite these new technologies, Cult of Mac reckons this model will be even thinner than the iPad 2. A case manufacturer even described the product as "measurably more svelte". This surprises me as there had been some previous expectation inclusion of a Retina Display may have meant a thicker model of the product.

The iPad's already a fast machine, but the new model will be super-fast. Videos begin playing almost instantly because of the additional graphics processing and the device has more pixels than some HD TVs.

An Apple environment

Apple leads this new market. Microsoft has its hopes with Windows 8 and a mobile version of the OS, but Android devices have been pretty much decimated by lack of consumer interest. Indeed, CES saw a mere handful of new tablet introductions, as vendors see Apple as too hard a nut to crack and Amazon as the giant at the low end.

What else can we expect inside the new device? Reports claim it includes Siri voice recognition, a long battery life and support for iCloud (as you find in the existing model). The graphics processor is also likely to see improvement, making this tablet a good alternative for many PC functions in many industries: healthcare, education, stock management and beyond.

Despite Apple's leadership, many of its competitors are attempting to minimize the impact the device is having on the generic PC industry.

This is a revolution

Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing told BusinessWeek, "Apple is the leader," adding, "we still need to learn something, we still need to improve something" concerning Android tablets. However, he also dismissed these devices as "niche products". And I think he's dead wrong about that -- these are part of the future of PC, a future in which computing is ultra-personal. We'll wait and see how those cards fall.

Apple has sold over 40 million iPads since the product's debut in 2009, raking in over $25 billion in revenue. The new release is likely to build on this. Next step following the consolidation of platform prominence will be to move to all-new user interfaces, or so it seems.

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