The hot air levels rose dramatically in the iOSphere this week on the strength of one laconic, six-paragraph posting about the expected weight of iPad 5.
In case you're wondering, it will be less, as much as a half-pound less if one can believe "sources with Taiwan's supply chain."
Also this week: a mistaken calculation for a September release date for iPad 5; and the fantasy rumor that the April iPad clearance sales that should have paved the way for a spring release of the Next iPads prove that Apple stopped iPad production, somehow ran into a glitch on the Next iPad production, and restarted Current iPad production and now plans to release the Next iPads in July. And Tim Cook is a head-faking dissembler to suggest otherwise.
You read it here second.
"When Tim Cook said not to expect new products until late 2013, he glossed over two details. July is in the second half of the year, making it technically 'late 2013.' And the iPad 5 and retina iPad mini 2, despite being new generations, aren't technically new product lines."
-- Phil Moore, Stabley Times, on how the Apple CEO, in effect, lied to Wall Street and the world when he said, according to the actual transcript of Cook's remarks, that Apple was working on "new hardware, software, and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014."
iPad 5 will be lighter by 5-8 ounces
In its trademark six-paragraph posting, citing "sources with Taiwan's supply chain," DigiTimes says that a change in display technology for the 9.7-inch iPad 5 will cut its current weight of 23 ounces by one-quarter to one-third.
According to the sources, Apple's manufacturing partners will start trial production of the Next iPad "soon" and "volume production will begin in July."
If it's 25% lighter, iPad 5 will lose about 5.7 ounces, and end up at 17.28 ounces; if it achieves a 33% weight loss, it will lose 7.6 ounces, and end up at 15.44 ounces.
This may be the first time that specific speculation on a new iPad display has been associated with specific weight reductions. DigiTimes never goes into detail about the nature of its sources or provides any information to bolster their credibility. Of course, these sources may simply have read iOSphere accounts about almost exactly the same claim -- put forth in April -- by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. As reported by MacRumors, Kuo said he expects the iPad 5 to be "roughly 15% thinner and 25% lighter than the current full-size iPad," and manufacturing to ramp up in late summer.
But the main technology core of this rumor has been circulating for far longer. Essentially, the rumor says that Apple will introduce on the next full-size iPad the display technology innovations it used for the original iPad mini, launched in fall 2012.
Those innovations, though separately small, would add up in reducing weight and possibly thickness. As many have speculated for eight to 12 months at least, the DigiTimes post claims that the Retina display of iPad 5 will have a glass substrate 0.2 mm thinner than the current 0.25 mm substrate for the fourth-generation tablet announced last fall.
Another change is in the touch panel assembly. The current 9.7-inch iPad uses a glass-on-glass bonding, which is comparatively much thicker. If DigiTimes' sources are correct, the iPad 5 touch panel will have a single layer of glass with a two-surface film coating of indium tin oxide (sometimes referenced as double ITO or DITO). Indium tin oxide is used as a transparent conductive coating for touch screens and other displays. It's costly because of the rare element indium. The iPad mini is the first Apple product to use a DITO film instead of a second glass layer, helping to keep the overall display thinner and lighter.
Finally, according to DigiTimes, the Next iPad will have a single LED light bar for the backlight, instead of the two light bars in the current iPad.
If Apple can in fact realize these weight savings, of nearly one-half pound in the best case, that will have a major impact on the user experience, resulting in a tablet that weighs about 15.4 or 17.3 ounces. The current 7.9-inch iPad mini weighs 10.88 ounces.
That reduction in weight and possibly in thickness are key Apple concerns for its mobile devices. The reduction apparently could be done with well-known, scalable display technologies, which Apple has already made use of in manufacturing and selling millions of iPad mini tablets and iPhone 5 smartphones.
iPad 5 will launch in September
Based on exactly the same DigiTimes post (it's amazing how much they get into six paragraphs), the iOSphere did the math and concluded that iPad 5 will launch in September.
iOSpherian math is calculated according to its own unique set of rules.
Here's how things added up for Christian Zibreg at iDownloadBlog: "The fifth-generation iPad is believed to be entering trial production next month, meaning the device should be on track for a rumored September launch," Zibreg announced. "Initial output is pegged at up to three million units until Apple and its manufacturing partners reach yield levels necessary to ramp up production ..."
Here's what the DigiTimes post actually said, in its opening: "Trial production of Apple's 5th-generation 9.7-inch iPad will begin soon and volume production will begin in July, with monthly shipments ramping up to 2-3 million units in September, according to sources with Taiwan's supply chain."
Whether accurate or not, DigiTimes is saying that trial production starts in July, and will increase monthly output ("shipments" to Apple and its retail partners) up to 2 million-3 million units in September. Zibreg simply concludes that therefore iPad 5 will be ready to ship in September.
Let's think about this. In September, the humming production lines will crank out optimistically 3 million iPad 5 tablets, according to DigiTimes. But they started in July: Let's say they cranked out 1.5 million during that ramp-up period. Total: 4.5 million iPad 5 units, by the end of September.
In 2012, Apple released iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad on Nov. 2, which means they were on sale for about eight weeks of that fiscal quarter. For that entire fiscal 2013 Q1, Apple reported it sold 22.8 million iPads. If we just do the averages, that's 1.2 million iPads per week, or 7.6 million per month.
Sales probably were tailing off during September as consumers waited to see what was announced, and then picked up during the November-December holiday buying season. And Apple doesn't break out 9.7-inch and 7.9-inch iPad sales separately: It's all one number.
So the question becomes: Can a starting inventory of 4.5 million 9.7-inch iPads at the beginning of October 2013, and a production rate of 3 million a month, sustain sales for the big iPad? And ensure that everyone (or at least almost everyone) who wants an iPad can get one?
This seems like a stretch, based on the DigiTimes sources.
iPad 5, iPad mini 2 release dates can't be determined by retailers' clearance sales after all but they will be released in July anyway
In early April, as The Rollup noted, the iOSphere went gaga because some big retail sellers of the iPad and iPad mini announced price cuts. Everyone and her brother immediately discerned that this closely watched "pattern" was a surefire indicator that Apple and its retailers were clearing these products out of inventory to make way for their replacements. And obviously those replacements would be coming ... soon.
A week after gaga, most prices at most of these same retailers had returned to previous levels.
And this week, Stabley Times, concluded that, goshdarn, it looks like you can't count on the pattern after all. Jake Robison sure sounded glum in his post.
"Consumers awaiting the iPad 5 and particularly iPad mini 2 have a case of the Retina Display blues, as earlier hope that the new generation mini could arrive sooner than later has now been dashed," he proclaimed.
Hope dashed. Retina display depression at epidemic levels.
"Stock of the current iPads had been dwindling at retailers Best Buy and MacMall for weeks even as the two slashed prices by as much as thirty dollars in an attempt to get the remaining inventory to disappear even more quickly," he explained. "Apple and its retail partners were blowing out remaining iPad mini stock as fast as they could, and it appeared certain that the iPad mini 2 would soon follow, complete with its Retina Display and other new features, along with the full sized iPad 5."
That's The Rollup's favorite bit: "it appeared certain." It once appeared certain that the world was flat. So ... what the heck happened?
"It appears Apple had been making plans to launch the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 sooner and worked to clear out inventory accordingly, but had to pull back at the last minute and temporarily left Best Buy and others without sufficient stock," Robison explains, without a shred of evidence to back this up. Nothing indicates that Apple had any plan whatsoever to announce the Next iPads in spring 2013, except completely unconfirmed scuttlebutt.
It apparently cannot be repeated often enough what Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the company's most recent earnings call in April 2013, in an unprecedented statement: "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014 [emphasis added]. We continue to be very confident in our future product plans." [For complete details, see "Apple's Cook resets 3 popular, and wrong, Apple rumors"]
For Robison, the reality of iPad can't be reduced to announced plans. Because the inventory clearance and inventory restoration have to mean, you know, something.
"But the restored inventory means that the iPad 4 and iPad mini are in fact still in production, and points to nothing debuting until at least the summer," he concludes.
Four days later, another Stabley Times writer, Phil Moore, posted "Five reasons to expect iPad 5 and retina iPad mini 2 July release date."
He repeats and expands Robison's clearance sales claim. For Moore, the clearance sales showed that Apple actually had stopped production of the existing iPad models, but then ran into some glitch with the Next iPads, and rushed the Current iPads back into production. He seems to think that assembly lines for different models of complex mobile computers can be turned on and off like a garden sprinkler.
He at least acknowledges that Cook had something to say about this, but Cook's comment was actually a "head fake" -- Cook was trying to deceive everyone. Moore: "when Tim Cook said not to expect new products until late 2013, he glossed over two details. July is in the second half of the year, making it technically 'late 2013.' And the iPad 5 and retina iPad mini 2, despite being new generations, aren't technically new product lines."
Only in the iOSphere can iPad 2 be considered a new product but the third and fourth generation iPads not new products but only new generations. Moore is simply wrong about Cook's comments. As already noted, Cook didn't say "late 2013" but "this fall and throughout 2014."
He also didn't mention "product lines." Cook went on to say, as Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber noted, "We see great opportunities in front of us, particularly given the long-term prospects of the smartphone and tablet markets, the strength of our incredible ecosystem which we plan to continue to augment with services, our plans for expanded distribution, and the potential of exciting new product categories."
Gruber takes note of Cook's phrasing: "Tablets, phones, and computers are 'product categories', in Apple parlance. So he's not talking about a new iPad or iPhone, he's talking about an entirely new leg on the stool."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.