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March debut of 'iPad 3' a sure bet, says analyst

February 9, 2012 03:59 PM ET

"Siri will be there for sure," added Gottheil, moving on to other predictions. "It's clear that there's some kind of hardware constraint, probably related to the noise reduction circuitry."

Siri has been cited by most analysts as a major factor in the iPhone 4S' sales last quarter, when Apple sold a record number of smartphones, most of them the Siri-able iPhone 4S.

Gottheil also expects that Apple will mimic its current iPhone practice and keep selling last year's iPad 2, albeit at a lower price. His bet: $400 for an iPad 2 with Wi-Fi only and 16GB of flash-based storage space.

And the company will want to replicate last year's short span between announcing the next iPad and the start of sales.

"They're very strong on getting a product out as soon as possible," said Gottheil. "They're going to have a relatively tough first quarter for iPads as it is, what with buyers, like me, who are waiting for the next one."

Apple suffered from that phenomenon last year when sales of the iPhone slumped in the quarter prior to its October launch. Company executives admitted that the nearly-constant Internet buzz about the next iPhone contributed to that slow-down.

Gottheil went out on a smaller limb for another pair of predictions, saying that he expects Apple to roll out a smaller 7-in. iPad -- though not at the upcoming event -- and perhaps tout a specially-designed wireless keyboard-case accessory for its tablet.

"I believe that's always been in the plan" said Gottheil of a small iPad, contradicting past comments by Jobs, who had rejected seven inches as too small for a tablet. "Actually that's a good form factor for some users, and although they will also charge a premium above other similar-sized tablets, they want to protect that price flank."

The hottest-selling 7-in. tablet has been Amazon's Fire, which debuted last November and serves primarily as an e-reader, secondarily as a true tablet.

A matched Bluetooth keyboard, perhaps integrated with a case to enclose the iPad, is also a long shot, but something that could attract customers.

"I think something like that would be an important peripheral for students," Gottheil said.

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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