Apple is poised to retain its dominance of the tablet market worldwide, and one leak of information after another is streaming out of Asia to reveal glimpses of what's next. Reports of more than one iPad model on the horizon are not new, however DigiTimes research indicates there could be three tiered models coming early this year.
The flagship model iPad 3 would be a high-end device featuring an updated screen with Retina-like resolution and top specs, including a next generation A6 mobile processor. A second tier A6-equipped iPad would feature the same insides however with a display matching the resolution of the iPad 2, which would reduce the price. Here's the kicker:
Apple could keep the existing iPad 2 model around at a steeply discounted price.
How steep? If Apple were to take this route to get tablets into the hands of as many people as possible, the price would have to be in the Amazon Kindle Fire range. Many first-time tablet buyers are gravitating towards the Kindle Fire, in part thanks to its more manageable price tag. A $299 entry-level Wi-Fi only iPad 2 would blow the market wide open and could even threaten sales of the popular $199 Kindle Fire.
Apple has taken a similar strategy with its iPhone line, keeping the iPhone 3GS available for free with a two-year contract from participating carriers. The iPhone 4 has been discounted while the latest and greatest iPhone 4S has exclusive features such as the Siri personal assistant. The original iPad has gone the way of the first iPhone, with only one year on the market before replacement by the iPad 2.
It's possible the next generation iPad (or iPads) could launch as early as February. Until then, we'll stay tuned to the Asian supply chain for more hints.