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iPad 2 (and 3!): Smells Like Apple Press Leak Blitz

The Apple (AAPL) iPad 2, successor to one of the most successful consumer electronics gadgets of all time, is already in manufacturing, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Oh, and then there's John Gruber's notion that the iPad 3 could be available in the fall.

Isn't it amazing how so many insights into Apple's plans come out on when major competitors had announced their new tablets? Not at all. What you see is evidence of another likely Apple masterful manipulation of the press to minimize the time people spend thinking about products that don't run its iOS software.

Chances are that the stories weren't the result of clever sleuthing so much as a deliberate word whispered into writers' ears by Apple, when it wanted the attention most. As a PR expert mentioned to me the other day, the only place you can find people better versed in the planned leak is Washington, D.C. Apple gets how the press works in a way that no other high tech company does, and it makes devastatingly effective competitive use of its abilities.

Former Apple marketing exec John Martellaro described the process last year:

The way it works is that a senior exec will come in and say, "We need to release this specific information. John, do you have a trusted friend at a major outlet? If so, call him/her and have a conversation. Idly mention this information and suggest that if it were published, that would be nice. No e-mails!"The communication is always done in person or on the phone. Never via e-mail. That's so that if there's ever any dispute about what transpired, there's no paper trail to contradict either party's version of the story. Both sides can maintain plausible deniability and simply claim a misunderstanding. That protects Apple and the publication.
Using controlled leaks helped Apple whip pre-release coverage of the iPad into a frenzy.

As Martellaro noted, one of the reasons Apple plans a leak is to panic and confuse competitors. There is no coincidence that these two stories happened to come out on the day HP (HPQ) announced its new tablet and a day after Dell (DELL) announced its Windows 7 version.

For what it's worth, even though an Apple spokesperson "declined to comment," the iPad 2 is supposed to be thinner and lighter than the first one. It will have at least a front-facing camera for video conferencing but won't get the higher resolution screen of the iPhone 4. Both Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) will carry it in the next couple of months at roughly the same prices as the originals.

That would put a launch date in April, which keeps to Apple's rough schedule of new products out every year at the same time. (The first iPad came out in April 2010.) More curious, though, is Gruber's theory that Apple will ship the iPad 3 in the fall. He has great sources at Apple and elsewhere. It's unlikely that the idea comes from the blue, as this would be an enormous break with the company's historic product release pattern. To say nothing of ticking off the many people who will have bought the iPad 2 when it was release just a few months before.

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Image: morgueFile user roganjosh.