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Big Apple announcement today: iPad HD?

The rumours have been flying since Apple invited members of the media to a special event scheduled for today at 2pm Bermuda time.

“We have something you really have to see. And touch.” Reads the invitation which also shows a finger tapping on the calendar icon on an iPad screen.

With a picture of an iPad on the invitation and the company’s track record of releasing a new one each spring, tech blogs have been buzzing that Apple would release the iPad 3 today. They were wrong.

According to a new report, the next generation iPad will be unveiled today but it won’t go on the market until March 16th. And it reportedly won’t be called ‘iPad 3’ either. Thanks to Gizmodo, a leading tech industry blog, rumours that the tablet will be called ‘iPad HD’ are all but confirmed. Media and tech pundits have been speculating about the name change for months.

So, what will this ‘iPad HD’ have that the previous versions do not? The rumours that seem most likely to be true are the ones speculating that the next iPad will be 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) equipped, have a significant update to the IOS and have some of the same features that appeared in the new iPhone 4s: a faster chip, a sharper display, Siri, the “personal assistant” software, and improved camera.

4G Capability: According to a source familiar with the new product, the newest iPad will be capable of operating on a high-speed 4G ‘LTE,’ or Long-Term Evolution network. At speeds of roughly ten times faster than current 3G technology, that will go a long way in boosting video quality for users on the go. While Apple is the dominant force in the smartphone and tablet market, unlike its competitors, it has yet to release a product that runs on the new super high-speed network. Analysts point out that in order for 4G to become a reality, Apple will have to make some serious improvements to the iPad’s battery life.

Such a juiced-up device would help boost revenue for telecom companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T, if consumers catch on and are willing to pay more for the technology. Until now, Apple fans have been reluctant to shell out the extra money even for iPads with 3G connections. The cheaper Wi-Fi only model is by far the top-selling one today.

Faster Processor: This one’s pretty much a given since every new iPhone or iPad has improved upon the computing power of its predecessor. Industry watchers seem divided on what kind of chip it will be. Some speculate it will have a new and improved version of the dual-core A5 chip that’s in the iPad 2 (A5X), but others believe it might be a quad-core A6 chip. Apple is reportedly developing both. What is not clear is which one will land in the new tablet. But whatever the chip, the general consensus is the iPad 3 will be quicker and the more powerful processor would lend some credence to the ‘HD’ name. Good news for those who like to watch videos on their iPad.

Sharper Display: There’s good reason to believe the new iPad will feature a screen similar to the ‘Retina Display’ found on the iPhone 4 and 4s. According to Apple, Retina Display is “the highest-resolution phone screen ever.” The company says it means there are so many pixels on the screen, your eye can’t distinguish individual pixels. Tech analysts say the rumoured resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels would make text look smoother and some high-resolution images look better, but won’t make much of a difference for video.

Siri: Tech bloggers assume Siri, the ‘personal assistant’ software that set the latest version of the iPhone apart from the rest, will likely be a feature in the iPad 3. While holding your iPad up to ask Siri for driving directions doesn’t as convenient as speaking into your phone, a way to dictate e-mails is a possibility.

Camera: Another possible improvement would be to the iPad’s camera. The iPhone’s improved from a 5-megapixel to an 8-megapixel with autofocus and face detection in the latest version. Don’t be surprised if the iPad gets the same bump.

As for the rumours that are less likely to have any truth to them:

Home Button: Much speculation has been flying around since Apple sent out its invitation to the media showing a section of the iPad that included no home button, but a China-based blog claims it has obtained the front glass and rear shell of Apple’s latest tablet, putting those rumours to rest. Most industry watchers are all but certain the home button feature will be sticking around.

Price Point: One of the lingering questions revolves around how much the new iPad will cost. Apple-centric blogs have been all over the place on that one with some saying there will be a slight uptick in the price, others insisting it will remain the same.

Whatever the price point, there’s little doubt the newest version of the iPad will likely fly off the shelves like the iPad and iPad 2 did. A recently-conducted poll indicates nearly one-third of all mobile users in the US will buy the new iPad3. Apple released the first iPad in April 2010 and sold 3 million in 80 days. The iPad 2 came out in March 2011. Apple has sold more than 73 million iPads in the last two years.

Unveiling: Apple CEO, Tim Cook, is expected to host today's event. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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Published March 07, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 08, 2012 at 1:16 pm)

Big Apple announcement today: iPad HD?

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