Rumors swirl about the iPad … 3???

I know, I know … we don't even have an iPad 2 yet. Who in their right mind would be chirping about an iPad 3 already?

Daring Fireball's John Gruber, that's who. The blogger and Apple insider (not to be confused with Apple rumor blog AppleInsider) touched off a firestorm after making an off-hand comment about how the just-announced, WebOS-based HP TouchPad, which isn't due to land in stores until an unspecified date this summer, "might bump up against the release of the iPad 3."

Say what?

Gruber quickly clarified that he'd only been guessing. Still, it was a guess that raised plenty of eyebrows in the tech world, given that the well-connected blogger was putting the release of the iPad 3 in the fall, when Apple traditionally unveils its new iPods—not March or April 2012, closer to the second anniversary of the original iPad.

Soon afterward, TechCrunch's MG Siegler waded into the fray, declaring that "we've now heard" that Apple does, in fact, have a "fall surprise" in store, and it's "related to this would-be iPad 3"—although "we don't have any more concrete information beyond" a plan to release the iPad 2 in the "next few weeks," and "then blow the doors open with another new version in the fall."

And with that, the guessing game began in earnest, with Siegler suggesting that the iPad 3 might have a "slightly smaller" form factor and boast a version of the iPhone 4's high-resolution "retina" display (which reportedly won't arrive in time for the iPad 2), while Gruber thinks the third iPad might be more of an iPad "2.5," or an iPad 2 "HD" with the aforementioned double-resolution display.

So, why would Apple want to crank out a third iPad so quickly after the iPad Deux? Because, Gruber speculates, Apple hopes to run up the score, "pushing the iPad hardware specs forward as fast as they can," presumably given the upcoming wave of bleeding-edge Android, BlackBerry, and WebOS tablets. "They're not going to leave any gas in the tank."

With all the furious chatter about the iPad 3 (or iPad 2.5, or iPad 2 HD) going on, you'd almost think that the iPad 2 announcement had already come and gone.

But as of Thursday morning, Apple has yet to admit that there's an iPad 2 waiting in the wings, much less that there's an iPad 3 on the horizon.

The Next Six Months [Daring Fireball]
Yes, Apple Is Lining Up For A "Surprise" This Fall. And Yes, It's Likely An "iPad 3″ [TechCrunch]

— Ben Patterson is a technology blogger for Yahoo! News.

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