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Apple may be prepping iPad 3 for fall 2011 launch - rumor

Reports have emerged of a fall launch of Apple's third-generation iPad in order to match the touchscreen tablet's release schedule with the company's annual iPod releases and the holiday season.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball sparked the first rumors Wednesday when he mentioned that the HP TouchPad may "bump up against the release of the iPad 3" in a post. HP unveiled the webOS-based tablet Wednesday, though the device will not become available until "later in the summer."

After speculation arose that Gruber's comments were based on inside information, he clarified his thoughts as mere guesswork in a subsequent post.

"My gut feeling is that Apple will move the iPad to a September release schedule, alongside the iPods," he wrote. "But they wouldn’t want to wait over a year and a half from the announcement of the original iPad to announce the second one."

Gruber guesses that Apple will release the second-generation iPad "fairly soon," possibly in March with a shipping date in early April. The updated device would be faster, with "more RAM, maybe more storage, thinner and lighter, a front-facing camera." He also believes iOS 5 would be announced in March and ship in June.

"iPad 3, shipping in September, announced at the annual iPod event. Running iOS 5.1, same as the next-generation iPod Touch," predicted Gruber, adding that the release may be more like an iPad 2.5, iPad 2 HD or iPad 2 Pro—"a new higher-end model that sits atop the iPad product family, not a replacement for the iPad 2 models."

Gruber's conjectures were followed by a report from TechCrunch's MG Siegler that lent credence to the speculation, though for different reasons. Siegler cited a "very good" anonymous source that claims Apple is planning a "big fall surprise" related to the iPad 3.

"We don’t have any more concrete information beyond that," said Siegler. "But, as of right now, the plan is apparently to release one iteration of the iPad in the next few weeks. And then blow the doors open with another new version in the fall."

He went on to surmise that a third-generation iPad could have "a retina-like display" or perhaps "another, slightly smaller form factor," though Apple CEO Steve Jobs has downplayed the possibility.

While Apple has yet to formally announce the second-generation iPad, reports of the device have picked up steam as of late. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has begun manufacturing the next-generation tablet. As reported by AppleInsider in January, the iPad 2 is expected to be thinner and lighter, with a faster processor, more memory, a FaceTime-ready camera and an upgraded graphics processor.

For more, see AppleInsider's extensive coverage of the iPad 2.