Rumour: iPad 2 to launch at iOS 4.3 event

The Apple rumour mill is starting to rumble into life, as it always does, based on the most spurious evidence.

More than one tech blog is reporting the possibility of an iOS 4.3 launch event being held some time next week, most having thrown a dart in February 9th on their wall planners - which, given the rate at which beta releases of the mobile operating system are currently spewing out of the Cupertino labs, is a pretty good guess. All the same, it's still a guess, no matter how many 'secret sources' are bandied about by the world and its Wi-Fi.

Adding two and two, and getting 22, some news outlets are optimistically suggesting that Apple will also launch the iPad 2 at the same time. Why not add the iPhone 5, the Mac Pro Budget Edition and a new range of interactive Apple underpants if we're just making stuff up?

Here's a news flash, folks. The day Apple tacks a major product release onto the back of a minor point release of one of its operating systems as a 'just one more thing' reveal is the day the Cupertino company allows OS X to be installed on a Nintendo Wii.

With rumours of new display panels and updated case parts leaking thick and fast out of Far East component manufacturers, it's no surprise that rumours of an imminent announcement are reaching fever pitch. But even if Apple is technically ready to release the iPad 2, there's one very good reason why it won't:

The original iPad is still selling so well that demand, it's outstripping supply in some markets.

Even officially announcing the existence of the iPad 2 would kill sales of the current iteration stone dead, or at the very least necessitate deep discounts in order to keep the cash registers chiming.

There's also a distinct possibility that the money men at Apple are closely watching the tablet market - which Apple still utterly dominates, with an estimated share in excess of 90 per cent - in case the likes of Motorola's hotly-anticipated Xoom actually makes some in-roads into the iPad's virtual monopoly.

The recent announcement of Google's Honeycomb variant of the Android operating system will also have given Apple execs food for thought - but it's impossible to get away from the fact that Apple has more than a year's head start on the wannabe upstart.

There's so much riding on the built-for-tablets Honeycomb OS that Apple will almost certainly hold the iPad 2 in reserve for when the pioneering original starts to lose its grip.

Having said all of that, there's something decidedly off-kilter about Apple holding a press event to announce a minor bump for iOS4. If Apple has announced a press event. Which it hasn't.

We're having a nice trilby made out of marzipan just in case this one comes back to bite us on the bum, but if it does happen... we'll eat our hat.

When the iPad 2 does eventually show its face, it could have some, all, or none of the following:

A higher-resolution screen (although a proper Retina display like the iPhone 4 is unlikely. The clever money is on 1536x800, exactly twice the resolution of the current panel).

A thinner bezel, making the whole thing smaller and lighter.

A carbon-fibre back plate which will also cut down on the weight.

A missing Home Button facilitated by multi finger gestures (which are included in beta release of iOS4.3, but won't make it into the public release according to Apple.

Better sound quality with bigger speakers.

Front and rear-facing cameras, at least one of which will capture 3 mega-pixel still images and 720p HD video.

A dual-core version of the current Apple-designed (or ARM, depending on who you believe) A4 chip also used in the iPhone 4.

Feel free to add to the wish list in the comments below. After all, your predictions are as valid as anybody else's.