Funny how rumors get started.
The blogosphere was buzzing yesterday with rumors that an iPad 3 might be on the way in September. That's right, the iPad 2 hasn't officially been announced (though it is reported to be in production), and already people are talking about an iPad 3.
It all started with a blog post by John Gruber, who writes the popular Daring Fireball blog. In discussing Hewlett-Packard's launch of its iPad competitor, a WebOS tablet called the TouchPad that's scheduled to arrive this summer, Gruber wrote: "Summer feels like a long time away. If my theory is right, they're not only going to be months behind the iPad 2, but if they slip until late summer, they might bump up against the release of the iPad 3."
The mere fact that Gruber--who has built a reputation for having good Apple sources (which are quite hard to come by unless you're The Wall Street Journal, to which Apple seems to like to leak stories)--uttered the words "iPad 3" set off an immediate wave of speculation.
Not long after, Business Insider wrote a story with the headline, "iPad 3 could launch by fall, John Gruber hints." Business Insider's Dan Frommer, an excellent rumor peddler, wrote: "Gruber--who is probably the best-sourced Apple writer in the world--has a habit of sometimes slipping 'news' into his posts without making a big deal of it. So unless this is pure speculation, or a misinterpretation on our part, it's possible he knows something."
Then, Jason Snell, editor of MacWorld, posted on Twitter, "I love how @gruber drops stuff, like the possible release of an iPad 3 this fall, so nonchalantly."
In the evening, I got an IM from my CNET colleague, Executive Editor John Falcone, who'd cut and pasted a link to a Tech Crunch story by MG Siegler, who'd taken the Gruber story and run with it and mated it with a rumor he'd been hearing from one of his sources. The headline for his offspring read: "Yes, Apple is lining up for a 'surprise' this fall. And yes, it's likely an 'iPad 3.'"
Siegler said that a few days ago, Tech Crunch had heard from a very good source that Apple was assembling the pieces for a "big fall surprise." That could mean anything: an actual Apple television, iTunes in the cloud, a touch-screen iMac? They had no idea. But suddenly, with Gruber's post, the source (or someone) brought some new clarity to the supposed fall surprise.
We've now heard that this "fall surprise" is related to this would-be iPad 3. We don't have any more concrete information beyond that. 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.
After reading the story, I IM'd Falcone. "Definitely the iPad Mini," I typed. "You can take that to the bank."
Apple has long been rumored to have a smaller, 7-inch iPad in the works; Steve Jobs has publicly said it would be a bad idea, but I have remained confident Apple will release this product--and sooner rather than later. Though expensive, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch model, has shown some promise. And Barnes & Noble has had a hard time keeping its $250 Android-powered Nook Color (another 7-inch tablet) in stock, showing there's a nice market for a tablet that size. (I've also written before how Amazon may have an Android tablet up its sleeve.)
You think Apple's just going to cede that size to other companies? Highly doubtful.
Also, it makes much more sense for Apple to do a Retina Display in a smaller tablet than a full-blown iPad. I just don't think it can make a 9.7-inch iPad with a superhigh-resolution display and keep the current prices. Yeah, maybe in April 2012, but not this fall. However, rolling out a smaller iPad--or jumbo iPod Touch--would dovetail nicely with Apple's iPod event that traditionally takes place in the fall. If you're talking about fall surprises, the iPad Mini has to be a candidate.
A little while later, Falcone walked into my office.
"I think you're right about the Mini," he said. "Apple would piss too many people off if they released a new iPad less than six months after the iPad 2. But the iPad Mini or whatever they call it would be a whole new product."
"A $399 price point," I said. "It's just sitting there, saying come to Mama."
"You gonna write that up?"
I was in the middle of putting together a post on an embargoed Sonos product, which was proving to be more tedious than I'd originally thought it would be (though the product itself was exciting enough). It was close to 7 p.m. on the East Coast. I was tired.
"Tomorrow morning," I said. "I'll wait till the dust clears a bit. Wait for Gruber to clarify himself."
A few hours later, Gruber actually did just that, pounding out a longer post titled, "The next six months," in which he stated that he thought that April was kind of a bad time to release the iPad, and that Apple might move to a September schedule for iPad releases. Siegler then updated his post to reflect Gruber's new post. "Gruber thinks the new iPad we may see in the fall will be more of a 'iPad 2.5,' whereas my guess was the other way around." (I'm more with Siegler: new product, just not the iPad 3.)
"You don't think someone will write that up before tomorrow morning," Falcone said. "Seems kind of obvious."
"I don't know," I said. "What's the headline?"
"'iPad 3 really iPad Mini?'"
"'Rumored iPad 3 really iPad Mini?'" I countered. "We have to let our readers know it's a rumor, not some sort of fact."
"OK. That's good. Get on it."
"First thing in the morning," I said.
Funny how rumors get started.
Correction at 8 a.m. PT: Fixed the spelling of MG Siegler's last name.