Apple sets iPad 3 launch event for March 7

Invite hints the next tablet will lack a physical home button, offer higher-res screen

As expected, Apple today issued invitations to the media for an event next Wednesday, March 7, where it's expected to launch the next iPad.

Invitations were received by bloggers and reporters, including those with the IDG News Service, which is operated by IDG, the parent company of Computerworld.

The news confirmed earlier speculation that Apple would debut the newest iPad -- which most have labeled iPad 3 -- in early March, which later settled on March 7, the same day of the week Apple used to launch the original tablet in 2010 and last year's iPad 2.

"We have something you really have to see. And touch," read the invitation, which continues Apple's tradition of keeping its invitation text cryptic.

The background shows part of an iPad screen, with a finger poised over the Calendar app, which is set to March 7. If the background is a photograph of the iPad 3 and not digitally manipulated, it hints that the tablet will not sport a physical home button, as have earlier iPads.

Some bloggers argued that the photo also showed a higher-resolution, or so-called "Retina," display.

Apple will host the launch event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, a regular venue for the company's press-only announcements and where former CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011.

This will be the first time that Jobs, who died last October after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, will not host an iPad launch.

The event will kick off at 10 a.m. PT, and wrap up an hour or so later.

Most experts believe the iPad 3 will feature a higher-resolution screen, a faster processor -- perhaps Apple's first quad-core -- and more internal memory. They have been split on whether the new tablet will support the faster LTE data networks like those now being deployed in the U.S. by Verizon and AT&T.

In an interview two weeks ago, Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, a repair shop and do-it-yourself parts supplier for the iPhone, iPod and iPad, said, "I'd be extremely surprised if the iPad 3 didn't support LTE," adding that because tablet users consume even more data than smartphone users, the faster speeds will be important as Apple faces competition from Android-powered tablets.

Verizon offers LTE in 195 U.S. markets, while AT&T boasts coverage in just 26 cities.

Apple has not said anything about the price of the new iPad -- some recent rumors have claimed it will cost about $80 more than current models -- when it will go on sale or even the official name of the tablet.

Prices, on-sale dates and naming are likely to be disclosed March 7.

iPad event invitation
Apple today announced it will host an event March 7, when it will likely unveil the next iPad. (Image: Apple.)

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

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