If there's one thing Apple is great at doing, it's following the planned obsolescence model. What we mean by this is that Apple is notorious for releasing products that are either functionally dated from the get-go, or have a limited shelf-life due to missing features. The recently released iPad 2 with its janky cameras, lower than Full HD resolution, and half the amount of RAM as competing tablets (512MB versus 1GB on the Xoom, for example) is a good example of this. With many viewing the iPad 2 as an incremental update over the iPad 1, then is it so hard to believe the Internet rumors suggesting Apple will release an iPad 3 in the third quarter of this year?
Depends on who you ask. According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, upstream component makers aren't buying into the chatter. Touch panel makers did admit that Apple is asking them to provide products that can support higher image quality than the current iPad 2, and that an AMOLED panel may even be in Apple's cards, but since the project is still in the initial planning stage, it's highly unlikely you'd see an iPad 3 in 2011.
That isn't the only reason. As DigiTimes sees it, "Since Apple just released its iPad 2 in early March and is ready to start mass shipping, launching the iPad 3 would simply bite off share from its iPad 2." We tend to agree. The iPad 2 is selling faster than Apple can stock its virtual store shelves, and with the competition still at a point where there's more talk than action, it wouldn't serve much purpose to release a third generation tablet so soon.
The flip side to that argument is that we should see some compelling alternatives to the iPad by the end of the year, especially as Honeycomb matures and Google releases the source code to more hardware makers. And it's not just Android. We're still waiting on promising slates from Research In Motion (PlayBook), Hewlett-Packard (TouchPad), Asus (Eee Pad Transformer), and a handful of others. With so many companies stepping up to the plate, there's a good chance one of them will hit a homerun.