By Louis Bedigian
Could Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) be too preoccupied with the Chinese debut of its record-breaking iPhone to announce the iPad 3 this month?
To be clear, Apple has not promised that it would announce the iPad 3 anytime soon. In fact, the company has yet to publicly speak on the highly anticipated tablet, instead relying on a plethora of rumors to hype the device into oblivion. Those rumors have gotten the attention of one key competitor, which now seems determined to destroy the iPad 3.
In terms of official announcements, we know nothing about the iPad 3. But we do now know that the iPhone 4S will now go on sale in China on January 13. The upgraded iPhone will also become available in the following territories:
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guam, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and Uganda.
“Customer response to our products in China has been off the charts,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a company release. “With the launch in China next week, iPhone 4S will be available in over 90 countries making this our fastest iPhone rollout ever.”
If Apple was considering an imminent iPad 3 announcement, the company likely pulled the plug before confirming that the iPhone 4S would be released in China this month. Why would that be enough to delay the unveiling of Apple's next tablet?
Apple isn't simply a fan of hype – it wants structured hype. No company can structure the hype that it receives by making a series of announcements at random times. The company tends to back away from making smaller or less significant announcements (such as the iPhone 4S being released in China) long before a larger and more prominent unveiling.
We were in a similar situation last winter. At that time, the iPad 2 was expected (though never actually confirmed) to have a January 2011 unveiling. Instead, Apple decided to re-hype the old iPhone 4, which finally came to Verizon (NYSE:VZ).
Coincidence or not, the iPad 2 did not get a formal announcement until the first week of March. In the weeks leading up to its announcements (and in the few weeks after), Apple did not make any other significant announcements. It did not announce any minor product releases either. In fact, the over-hyped white iPhone did not see the light of day until the end of April – long after the iPad 2 arrived.
This is what Apple likes: structure. There is no sense in overcrowding Apple Stores with the simultaneous release of too many new or enhanced products. Likewise, there is not a single reason for Apple to cannibalize its own stream of media hype by announcing too many new products at one time. Even if you don't see this as proof that the iPad 3 won't be unveiled this month, just remember: the January release date was just a rumor. Apple products tend to go through several rumors before they are able to paint a realistic picture of the product that will become available.
If you believe the iPad 3 announcement is at least another month away:
- Consider going long Apple anyway – the iPad 2 is still a strong tablet.
- Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has offered a nice, cost-effective iPad alternative that could prove to be a seriously powerful competitor.
Those who wish to invest in a broader area of the tablet market should consider:
- Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), which manufactures the processors featured in both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS).
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Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.