∞ About this iPad 3

It seems really crazy to be talking — or even thinking about — the iPad 3, but here we are.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]John Gruber set off a firestorm of speculation and rumor yesterday when he guessed that Apple may release two iPads in 2011. One iPad fairly soon, and another in the September timeframe.

I’ve known Gruber for a long time and know that he has solid sources, but his post yesterday was just as much about how people don’t read. He specifically said that he was guessing and had no inside knowledge of what was going to happen. I take him at his word.

Let’s talk about the iPad 2 for just a minute. Rumors circulated last week that the iPad 2 was going to be announced at an event this week. Clearly that was wrong. Then stories said the iPad 2 announcement was delayed — wrong again.

The iPad 2 was never scheduled to be released or announced this week, so it can’t be delayed.

I expect the iPad 2 to be announced in March with a ship date in April. I’ve said that all along.

Now, let’s look at Gruber’s take on the iPad 3. His speculation makes sense — a new iPad that won’t really replace the iPad 2, but rather add to the product line.

In theory, I agree with that. At some point, the iPad has to become a product family instead of just a product. The September timeframe makes sense for this to happen for a couple of reasons.

As Gruber points out, the annual iPod event takes place in September, but the iPods aren’t selling like they used to. They are still a huge money-maker for the company, but when you’re looking at the holiday shopping season, having something like a new iPad would boost sales by an incredible amount.

There’s another reason that Apple could release an iPad in the September timeframe that I feel has been overlooked. The iPad’s competition.

Currently the iPad has no competition, but by this summer, there will be a lot of tablets on the market. RIM’s PlayBook, HP’s tablet and many others.

Instead of competing with over 100 previously announced tablets, I believe Apple will want to change the game. And they’ve done it before.

Remember the iPod mini? It was Apple’s most successful iPod outselling all other models of its time. And Apple discontinued it. Just as the competition could say, “we have a music player just like the iPod mini,” Apple canceled it and started over, releasing the iPod nano.

This threw the competition into a tailspin. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple do it again, this time with the iPad.

Like Gruber, I don’t think Apple will kill off the current iPad line, but rather enhance the line and change the game that its competition thinks its playing.

It’s been a year since the original iPad release and there is still no competition. If Apple switches things up just as everyone releases their tablets, they will throw the competition into a tailspin again.

With iTunes, the App Store and the iOS, it’s going to be hard for any company to compete with Apple. If Apple continues to switch things up at every turn, it will be almost impossible for the competition to even stay in the game.