The buzz around the recent arrival of invitations to Apple’s press event on March 7 in San Francisco has made people speculate that the dawn of the iPad 3 is nigh, a notion that is backed up by industry analysts.
Based on the invitation that is circulating on the Internet, which depicts a portion of a media tablet screen with familiar iOS icons, Ovum analyst, Tim Renowden, sees an unveiling of the iPad 3 at the event as being “likely".
“The image that they used on the invitation shows the new iPad and the accompanying text seems to indicate that is true,” he said.
Telsyte research director, Foad Fadaghi, also points out that around about this time last year, Apple released an iPad update.
“We are assuming that we’ll see the unveiling of the new iPad at this event,” he said.
While the image on the invitation shows a different set of icons in the taskbar, both Renowden and Fadaghi do not see any particular significance to this.
“It’s possible they are announcing a refresh to the OS, but I guess we will have to wait and see if it also means new applications,” Ovum’s Renowden said.
Telsyte’s Fadaghi points out that users are able to manually move the icons around in the OS and there is no deeper meaning to the shown icons beyond that.
The clarity of the device screen in the photo seems to allude to the rumour of a high resolution Retina display, and both analysts are in agreement on this prediction.
“The rumours have been quite strong for a while about an upgraded display, and there have been clues in the developer software, so I think that is one of the more likely upgrades to the new iPad,” Renowden said.
“As a consequence of that, the tablet will need an upgrade to one or both of the processing units in it.”
In addition to seeing the improved screen as a “logical progression” of the device, Fadaghi points out that Apple already made the move to improve the resolution of its products in the past with the iPhone.
While last year’s prediction of an iPhone 5 turned out to be somewhat of a misnomer, as Apple released an upgraded iPhone 4S instead, there is lingering speculation that the new tablet for this year might not be an iPad 3 but an upgraded iPad 2S instead.
Renowden’s position is that if Apple were to double the screen resolution of the device, then that would seem to be “a significant change to warrant a new number.”
Fadaghi admits that he is not sure what direction Apple will take with the branding of the device, but expects to see significantly updated functionality and features.
“Apple is increasingly having to compete with Android and potentially Windows 8 tablets this year, so it’s important for Apple to continue to innovate and regularly release products in the media tablets space,” he said.
While the hype and expectation for the iPad 3 may have drowned out attention for existing iPad 2, both analysts are keen to see what direction Apple will take with the device post-launch of the iPad 3.
Renowden is interested to see if Apple is willing to maintain the older model at a discounted rate alongside the iPad, which something the vendor has already done in the past with some of its devices.
The good news for current iPad 2 owners according to Fadaghi is that continued software support for the device is expected, though he does expect that the iPad 2 will not be sold anymore “at some point down the track.”
“We don’t expect this to have immediately upon the release of the new device, because stock levels have not necessarily depleted,” he said.
“The availability of the iPad 2 has also not been mitigated over the last few weeks as you would expect if Apple were to replace the product and not continue to sell it.”
Beyond the expectation of the iPad 3 announcement, Ovum’s Renowden speculates that an upgraded Apple TV product with higher resolution video might show up, while Telsyte’s Fadaghi expects a software update being announced to the iPad if not to all iOS devices.