Apple slates iPad launch event for March 2

Analyst expects iPad 2 to steal the show next week

Apple will hold an event next Wednesday, March 2, where it will likely launch the next iPad, analysts said today.

Several media outlets, including IDG News Service, the wire service that contributes content to Computerworld, have received Apple's invitation to a press-only event on March 2. The invitation included the grammatically-questionable teaser line, "Come see what 2011 will be the year of."

Apple will hold the event in San Francisco, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, starting at 10 a.m. PT. The company last hosted a product launch at the center in September 2010, when it debuted the revamped Apple TV .

As is Apple's practice, the invitation lacked any information about what Apple will announce or tout, although the artwork appeared to show an iPad's distinctive volume controls at the upper right of the device.

An iPad 2 launch next week would fit with analysts' expectations that Apple will start selling a new tablet in early April, around the first-year anniversary of the original model's on-sale date.

"The iPad 2 will steal the show," said Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co. "But Apple has a lot of stuff in the hopper, and I expect they'll put several things into this one event. The iPad 2 could be the 'One more thing' [that Apple's famous for]."

Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research also saw the invitation as confirmation that Apple will start selling the new iPad within a month of next week's launch. "Apple typically announces new products as close to availability as possible," said Gottheil.

Most speculation on changes to the iPad have centered on the addition of one or more cameras to the tablet, which would let users run Apple's FaceTime video calling software. Teardowns of the original model released in 2010 revealed that Apple left room inside the iPad for a front-facing camera.

Last month, Apple said it sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010.

Although the iPad will probably be the focus of next week's event, the teaser may hint at additional news. Apple has said almost nothing, for instance, about Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, since it previewed the next edition of its operating system last October.

At the time, CEO Steve Jobs said that Lion would launch "summer 2011," a deadline that would require the OS upgrade to ship by Sept. 21.

Marshall said that talk of Lion next week would "make sense."

But he also went against the grain by saying Apple will trot out a new line of MacBook Pro notebooks on March 2 rather than debut them tomorrow , as many others have bet.

"I think they'll want to maximize the coverage on everything," said Marshall. "They want to continue to drive Mac sales, and give the MacBook Pro its due."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

Read more about macintosh in Computerworld's Macintosh Topic Center.

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