It's a well-known fact in tech journalism that the summer represents a dry period for news. Everyone - press, public and tech industry alike - is caught up thinking about vacations, BBQs, catching some rays and other 'summer' related activities. Because of this there's a certain pressure on outlets to fill this vacuum. A good target for these 'rumors' is Apple, and the Apple rumor du jour seems to be that Apple is planning on releasing the iPad 3 (or iPad HD as it's being called by some) this fall.
This latest rumor comes in via former Engadget editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky on his new site thisismynext.com.
Our sources are saying that not only will there be a newly designed iPhone coming in the fall, but there is going to be a new entry into the iPad family as well. As hard as it might be to believe, the new tablet is said to sport a double resolution screen (2048 x 1536), and will be dubbed the "iPad HD." The idea behind the product is apparently that it will be a "pro" device aimed at a higher end market - folks who work in video and photo production possibly - and will be introduced alongside something like an iPad version of Final Cut or Aperture. This product is specifically said to not be the iPad 3, rather a complimentary piece of the iPad 2 line. Think MacBook and MacBook Pro.
OK, let's put the whole 'our sources' bit on one side for a moment and just focus on the technical points. This iPad 3 (or iPad HD as Topolsky calls it) sporting a 2048 x 1536 display is not a new rumor. There seems to be some mention of this screen resolution in the iOS SDK related to the new Twitter and Newsstand .framework. I dismissed this rumor back in June with the following points:
Why release another iPad within months of the iPad 2? I'd understand this knee-jerk move if Apple was under pressure from other tablets in the market, but it's not.
Why restrict the high-resolution 'Retina Display' to certain aspects of iOS (like Twitter and Newsstand) rather than making it available across the whole OS?
Supply chain contacts say that there is no iPad 3 incoming any time soon.
It's not the first time that people have used 'evidence' gathered from the iOS SDK to convince themselves that a 'Retina Display' iPad is imminent. Remember all the speculation before the iPad 2 was released?
A 'Retina Display' panel the size of the iPad's would be a serious number of pixels to move about and it would need some serious hardware. The cost doesn't justify the benefit. Yes, sure, a 'Retina Display' panel might be nice and 'cool' but what's the point when HD movies would run windowed or need upscaling?
I think that these points are just as valid now as they were last month.
But in this latest 'rumor' Topolsky takes this high-resolution ‘Retina Display’ iPad rumor and repackages it as 'a "pro" device aimed at a higher end market.'
OK, where do we start tearing this idea apart?
Where is the need for Apple to introduce a new 'pro' iPad? Apple is targeting the mass market with the iPad (both in terms of price and functionality) and the idea that Apple feels the need to introduce a niche product aimed at 'folks who work in video and photo production possibly' doesn't make sense. Apple can sell iPads faster than it can make them, it makes no sense whatsoever for the company to take a risk releasing something aimed at a subset of the tablet market.
Apple already has products aimed at 'folks who work in video and photo production possibly' - they're called the MacBook Pro and MacPro! Take a look in the Apple Store - they're there!
What price does Topolsky think that this 'pro' iPad will sell for? Apple's priced the iPad competitively, and companies that have tried to sell a 'premium' tablet product have failed. Why would Apple go there?
At the same time that Apple is backing away from certain pro market (as shown by Final Cut Pro X compared to Final Cut Pro 7, and how Apple discontinued the Xserve line), why would Apple be thinking about a 'pro' tablet? Apple is targeting the bigger 'mass' markets as opposed to fringe 'pro' or enterprise users. The big money is in the mass market. Apple knows this. I'm surprised Topolsky doesn't.
Resolution aside, what does this 'iPad HD' offer over the iPad? What about it makes it 'higher end'?
Nothing about this rumor makes sense. Sure, it's bound to drive the fanboys wild with anticipation, but as for being based on reality, I don't think so.
Before I end this piece, let's go back to Topolsky's casual throwing in of that phrase 'our sources.' There's no doubt that Topolsky, like most other people in this industry, has his contacts and well-placed sources, but there have been many examples of where Topolsky has been adamant about things that have turned out to be completely wrong. Only a few weeks ago he was adamant that there would not be any iCloud web apps, and going as far as to claim that he'd had this confirmed by Apple PR (if you want to follow this you need to keep up with Topolsky's podcast). A few days later Apple released a statement making it clear that iCloud would indeed have web apps. Then the Apple TV rumor. There are more examples, but I don't need to hammer the point home, do I?
I'm pretty sure that there are HD-capable iPads floating around Cupertino, and that there are people who have seem them, but this doesn't mean that there are new HD iPads incoming any time soon.