Apple will be announcing the iPad 2 next week. Several news outlets just received an invite to the March 2 event in San Francisco. We can also expect the iPad 2 to be out in March, a little earlier than its predecessor was released last year. Here's why:
Catch up to Honeycomb tablets
Google (GOOG) Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab have been using a dated user interface, but the latest architecture, Honeycomb, was made specifically for tablet use. Honeycomb tablets are hitting hard this month, specifically the Motorola (M) Xoom, which already has a serious buzz.
Available tomorrow, the Xoom will run for $600 with a Verizon (V) 2-year contract. The 10-inch HD touchscreen, powerful dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, and reasonable price (only $100 more than the current iPad) make it pretty attractive. Most importantly, people will be able to buy one right now instead of waiting more than a month for the iPad 2 -- which still hasn't officially been announced yet. Apple will want to keep that waiting time for launch as short as possible.
Take shine away from the Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo (NTYDO) already named Apple its "number one" adversary, namely because the iPhone/iPad gaming platform appeals to the same casual market Nintendo once dominated. It's unclear if Apple feels the same way, but the Nintendo 3DS will be coming out on March 27, right in the same timeframe as the iPad 2. A well-timed Nintendo 3DS release date could take some of the shine away from the iPad 2, and Apple could combat it by releasing the iPad 2 earlier.
Show its founder's vitality
Steve Jobs' recent health sabbatical has been rough for Apple. There is no confident successor in place and, over the past week, news outlets have been relentlessly showing footage of a "sick" Jobs -- even declaring that he had less than six weeks to live.
At next week's event Apple is also expected to announce its new MacBook Pros, which exclusively use Intel's Light Peak "Thunderbolt" technology for faster data transfers. A strong MacBook announcement and an aggressive, earlier-than-expected launch of the iPad 2 would put the focus off of Jobs and back onto the products -- exactly where Jobs wants it to be.