The New iPad Is Coming!

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Baseball, warmer weather, and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) new iPad are essentially locks as springtime arrivals.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the iPad 2 is currently in production at China's notorious Foxconn, according to "people familiar with the matter."

No one should be shocked by the news. We're closing in on the first anniversary of the original iPad's debut. Apple just loves to refresh its product lines annually. Besides, Taiwan's DigiTimes broke this story two months ago.

Deep inside the iPad 2
Apple isn't going to confirm the Journal's story. The company is at a healthy run rate of selling current-generation iPads. The last thing that Apple wants to do is stall existing inventory levels, which is essentially what would happen if the public knew for sure that a better iPad was just weeks away.

The Journal confirms many of the features that have been rumored.

  • The new iPad will be thinner and lighter than the original.
  • There will be at least one front-facing camera for FaceTime videoconferencing.
  • More memory? More powerful graphics processor? You got it!

The first model sold nearly 15 million units last year, and that was after hitting the market in early April. There's no reason to believe that the iPad 2 won't be even bigger, especially since it's likely hitting the market at the same price points as what will soon be inferior originals.

Nothing can stop Apple now, right?

Well, not so fast.

Attack of the iPad killers
Apple has the tablet market cornered, but that may not last.

Heads turned when Samsung leaned on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android to crank out the Galaxy Tab. It shipped 2 million units in two months, which was impressive until investors eventually realized that there's sometimes a big difference between tablets shipped and tablets sold.

However, the next few months will be more competitive than the past few months for Apple. There's already hype building for several unreleased tablets.

  • Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI  ) XOOM -- the first tablet running Google's tablet-centric Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system -- hits the market later this month.
  • It's been a slow start, but Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) is ready to cash in on last year's Palm acquisition with webOS tablets.
  • Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) has taken lumps for the tweener nature of its 5-inch and 7-inch Android gadgets. Yesterday, it unveiled a 10-inch tablet running Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows 7.
  • Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook has potential given the company's massive base of BlackBerry users. We still don't have a firm release date, but RIM would be smart to hit the market before the iPad 2 arrives in April.

Strength in numbers
Individually, none of these tablets would make much of a dent against Apple's iPad. Collectively, though, it's an entirely different story.

Let's revisit what the tablet market should look like in a few months.

Google's open-source Android will continue to provide tablet makers and wireless carriers the means to either undercut the iPad on price or load up on specs and attack as a premium tablet. The arrival of webOS tablets should appeal to Palm purists. RIM will be strong in the corporate market where its BlackBerry continues to reign supreme. The arrival of Windows-fueled tablets will be a hit with both enterprises and consumers familiar with the market-leading PC operating system.

Apple knew that it was going to be in for a fight. A lot of the features in the new iPad are upgrades that it would have preferred to sprinkle in over the next few years. It can't do that. The tablet market is going to be far more competitive by the end of this year than it was at the beginning. Cupertino needs to show up strong in April.

It will. It just may have to settle for thinning market share of a widening pie.

What tablet do you think has the best chance to catch Apple's iPad? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool has written puts on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has an original iPad, but he may be tempted to stray this year. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (15)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2011, at 8:39 PM, fauxscot wrote:

    iPad has been out for almost a year.

    In that year, Apple has obtained a fair amount of experience with selling a unit, producing it in abundance, setting up alternate and direct sales channels, dealt with warranty and return issues, generated 300,000 apps and just passed 10 BILLION downloads. They still have 70% of the MP3 market.

    By comparison, almost no one else has even shipped the first unit, and not one review I have read puts any of these in the iPad class. Adroid, Win7, Palm? Get real.

    This isn't a race for first place. It's a scrum for 10th. Second through ninth are pretty much empty.

    Keep this up and I'll have to quit reading MF.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2011, at 9:09 PM, Apple123321 wrote:

    Its the cool factor. Palm??? Yesteryear's brand.

    HP? High price...Google??? More ads? Spamming?...Windows 07? It is like putting a Ferrari shell on a Beetle. Apple has many patents others need to risk in being sued...all the imitators and non-creative knock-offs need app. If Andriod works, Linex will take over Wind OS already.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2011, at 11:32 AM, melegross wrote:

    I don't see any tablet as an iPad killer, and I wish writers would stop using the term.

    So far, from what we've seen, no one making a truly high quality tablet can compete on price with Apple. The Xoom is too expensive, the TouchPad is too mee too, the Tab is a 7" model that's too expensive, and the Playbook is crippled by the need to use a BB for connection to their servers, and offers no security whatsoever otherwise.

    None of these will have the battery life of the iPad, or the ecosystem of software and hardware that's been built around it.

    While I expect other tablets, including some very bad, cheap ones, to sell this year, I don't expect that Apple will have too many problems with them.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2011, at 9:23 AM, Gesar01 wrote:

    I am going for the Blackberry. It looks great with its specs. I believe it is going to be dent apple really good. They should focus on China. Huge market there.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2011, at 9:55 AM, David369 wrote:

    I don't know if Rimm is going bankrupt that soon. I figured they would be gone long ago as they keep using yesterday's technology today. I don't know how they stay around. Good marketing I guess.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2011, at 12:46 PM, doctor4feelgood wrote:

    Apple fanboys never look at reality - the iPhone on Verizon is a total failure based on the costs involved and (Android) and has nothing to do with the quality of the phone. In around one year, Android went from nothing to sales leader due to the myriad number of handsets and non-tech people who don't care about the OS. The first ones were a bit junky, but they evolve fast. The iPad has just a precarious grip on the market and only a fool would discount EVERY Android /Win7/ Rim device based on what is available right now. Windows 7 tablets could OWN the corporate marketplace if RIM doesn't. Outlook sync will sell these things even if nothing else does. Almost every company I have seen in the industrial world has RIM. I have seen corporate execs with a RIM and their personal iPhone, but never an iPhone alone. Here in the real world...

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2011, at 9:53 PM, chrisjlat wrote:

    The iPad is a tough product, and I believe the iPad II will even be a tougher product, but for my money, I like the Dell Inspiron Duo, 'DiD'. I have owned one for several months, and the 'Cool Factor' always pleases me when i show it in public.

    Besides the 'Cool Factor' this mini laptop/ tablet quick change artist really packs power. It runs like a full sized laptop all-be-it without full size screen or typing. The tablet format needs some help, but using touchscreen Windows 7 is very nice.

    We recommend the 'DiD' for the person who wants a laptop/tablet. This is not a needs computer like a full sized laptop, but it can be a wants tablet like the iPad, recommended.

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