The Case of the iPad 2 Gets Tongues Wagging at CES
Apple is not participating in CES, but rumors are flying there about its next hotly anticipated product release -- the iPad 2. What's causing the stir is a case that's supposedly designed for the new tablet. It suggests that the next version will have a more streamlined form factor than the first iPad and offer functionality it lacks, revelations that aren't likely to get Apple's blood boiling, in any case.
A hitherto unheard-of company from China, Dexim, is creating a buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by showing off a case for the next-generation iPad 2 from Apple.
There's strong speculation that Apple will unveil the iPad 2 in January, and rumors about its tech specs are rife, although Cupertino's lips are sealed, as usual.
However, a quick search on Alibaba.com turned up listings from lots of Chinese companies purporting to offer iPad 2 cases, complete with photos.
The Deal With Dexim
"The case is designed for a different device, and the original iPad won't fit in there," Dmitriy Molchanov, a Yankee Group analyst who's at CES 2011, told MacNewsWorld. "The home button is a little lower on the case than it is on the original iPad, for example."
Those features make Dexim's case more likely to be for the iPad 2. The general consensus is that the iPad 2 will be slimmer, lighter and have more buttons than the iPad 1.
Besides having a few additional features, there are rumors the iPad 2 may be smaller than the iPad 1, Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo, told MacNewsWorld.
That's possible, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld.
"The iPad is heavy for a consumption device," he said. "That weight makes for a shorter battery life."
It's widely believed that Apple will launch the iPad 2 soon, to counteract the large number of Android-based tablets being announced at CES 2011.
"Apple has a history of staying ahead of the curve," Jeff Orr, a principal analyst at ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld. "There's talk of a next-generation iPad coming out as soon as January that will compete with all the new devices."
Apple did not respond to MacNewsWorld's request for comment by press time.
iPad 2 Ghost Whisperers
How did Dexim get its hands on specs for the iPad 2 when Apple's paranoia about its products has been honed to a keen edge? Last spring, a major brouhaha erupted when an Apple employee lost a prototype iPhone 4G at a bar in Redwood City. A Gizmodo editor paid the finder US$5,000 for the iPhone and shared his discovery with the world.
"There was hell to pay," Molchanov recalled.
Hell, indeed. The incident triggered legal letters from Apple to Gizmodo and other actions including a police probe -- at Apple's request -- of the editor that led to the confiscation of his computers.
Given Apple's penchant for slick marketing, some skeptics suggested that perhaps the loss of the iPhone 4 prototype had been cooked up by Cupertino's marketing department to get pre-release publicity.
Could that possibly apply to the specs for the iPad 2 case? Is Apple drumming up interest now to divert attention from the Android tablets being announced?
Retrevo's Eisner previously warned that Apple might pull a stunt to distract CES attendees, as it did with the first iPhone's release, which was announced in San Francisco during CES.
"I don't think Apple's behind this," the Yankee Group's Molchanov demurred. "There might have been a factory leak at Foxconn."
Foxconn makes the majority of Apple devices.
Impact on iPad 2 Sales
Several manufacturers in China are already advertising what they claim are iPad 2 cases on Alibaba.com.
There's a silicon case from Guangzhou SunRise Electronic, for example.
Or you can pick a red leather iPad 2 case from SLC Leather Fashion.
For sheer succulence, it might be difficult to beat the purple drifting tpu gel iPad 2 jelly case from Guangzhou Xinting Phone Accessories.
On the other hand, perhaps it would be wise to hold off until Apple actually launches the iPad 2 so we can see what it's really like.
"Scanning through the cases on Alibaba.com doesn't make it clear that they're any different from the cases for the iPad 1," Rhoda Alexander, a director at IHS iSuppli, told MacNewsWorld. "I think this is just marketing, to a large degree."
In any event, even if the cases are really for the iPad 2 and so indicate the device's size and layout, that won't affect its sales, Molchanov pointed out.
"I don't think this will impact the launch of the iPad 2 or Apple's product planning," Molchanov said. "I think Apple will just laugh it off."