Gruber seems to think that Apple will release two new iPads this year, a small bump sometime in the spring (with perhaps a camera and better internal specs), and a more impressive bump during the yearly fall iPod announcement in September. My thought is that Apple is better off delaying an iPad 2 launch rather than launching two devices too close together.
First off, I don’t think Apple wants to be perceived as having the same problem that Android does, which is that a bigger and better thing is right around the corner. Even if the shortened interval is just a realignment, the perception can stick around for a long time.
The Xoom, Playbook and TouchPad (which I’m very impressed with, by the way) are all playing catch up to the almost year-old iPad, with only the Xoom has a firm release date (and a higher-than-expected price and confusing fine print regarding WiFi only being available with at least a month’s data subscription). The fact that Apple has had no competition in the past year is a luxury, and as the tablet space blows up, it certainly won’t be the norm.
Apple can afford to delay an iPad 2 launch for a few months, even if the competition is able to match or best the iPad’s hardware, since Apple will still have the software advantage. A lackluster successor to the iPad would give competitors more ammunition against Apple than a languishing first-generation device. Imagine all the horrible headlines: “Steve Jobs’ Absence Felt in Underwhelming New iPad” (despite the fact that we all know that the iPad 2 was finished or close to finished while Jobs was still day-to-day at Apple).
As Gruber mentions in a follow-up post, the iPod touch launched in September pretty much matches the iPhone released a few months prior. This means that developers have had since the iPhone launch in June to develop apps that take advantage of any new hardware features. By the time the iPod touch launches, there are apps out there to take advantage of the new features. There’s no comparable device to serve as an iPad hardware preview, which means developers are going to be releasing apps awfully close to the holiday season, if they even make it in time for the holidays at all.
If Apple does significantly shift the iPad’s release schedule, I can see Apple launching the iPad closer to the iPhone in June than the iPod in September, but that if they do make the shift to September, that the shift will be spread out over two or more revisions.