With Apple's iPad-related event March 7, the rumor mill has kicked into its highest gear.
The popular assumption is that Apple will use the event to unveil its next iPad, which the media has dubbed "iPad 3" but could arrive under another name altogether. Because Apple typically refuses to part with details of its upcoming devices ahead of their unveiling, accurate information on the next iPad's features is virtually nonexistent.
However, the rumor mill has proved more than adept at filling that vacuum with all manner of conjecture, some of it plausible. Among the most pervasive ones: that the next iPad will feature a high-resolution "Retina Display," backed by a more powerful processor and support for 4G LTE. Some news sources have also suggested the device will boast an improved camera and Siri, Apple's "digital personal assistant."
Even Apple's invitation to the event sparked a flurry of speculation. "We have something you really have to see. And touch," read that missive, which included an image of a finger touching the calendar app on an iPad screen. The respective positions of hand and hardware led the blog Gizmodo to theorize that the iPad 3 would lack a home button.
Although the iPad has managed to dominate the consumer tablet market, it faces two threats in 2012. The first comes from Microsoft, which intends to challenge Apple in a big way with Windows 8 on tablets. Reportedly due closer to the end of the year, Windows 8 features an interface optimized for touch input; moreover, a variety of developers and manufacturing partners are committed to creating software and hardware for the ecosystem, which could give Microsoft the momentum that other iPad competitors have lacked.
In addition, Google and its own manufacturing partners show no signs of abating their collective quest to make Android a tablet player, despite the anemic performance of many supposed "iPad killers" that hit the marketplace in 2011.
A bevy of new high-powered features could help the iPad beat back these threats. But the exact nature of those features will have to wait a few more days: At this late date, Apple has still confirmed exactly nothing about its plans, aside from that it intends to host an event March 7.