iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending May 1

Rectangularity and rear sheels, cheapening iPad mini, resetting dates

The truth is out there, in blurry, "leaked" photos of the iPad 5 rear shell, which is just the right size for the compost pile of iOSphere rumors. One thing seems certain: iPad 5 will be rectangular.

Also this week, the cheap iPad, the iPad mini, will get even cheaper because Android is eating Apple’s lunch even though the Android tablet vendors seem locked in a death spiral of declining margins. The iOSsphere resets announcement date rumors after Tim Cook speaks. And what the movement of human capital reveals about iPad 5.

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You read it here second.

____________________“[Stock analyst] Kuo does not believe that such a device [a cheaper version of the iPad mini] would offer a significant boost to Apple's overall iPad sales, but it could help stave off erosion at the low end of the market at the hands of cheaper Android-based tablets.”

~ Eric Slivka, MacRumors, describing why a cheaper iPad mini would be a winning strategy for Apple, even though the company doesn’t actually win anything by adopting it.

iPad 5’s “leaked” rear shells proves it, too, will be rectangular

The mobile accessories manufacturer Tactus is on a roll. Their most recent revelation on the company blog is one rather blurry photo, obscured even more by the application of an annoyingly intrusive watermark pattern, of what it claims is the “iPad 5 rear shell.”

If you blow the photo up far enough, you can see that you’re looking at the interior of the shell, not the exterior surface.

For comparison purposes, here is the fourth-generation iPad’s interior rear case, (in lower right quadrant of this picture) from iFixit’s teardown of the tablet in fall 2012. 1

As can be seen, they are, you know, different. One looks like an actual product, because it is; the other looks like…well, something you’d see on a third-party mobile accessories vendor’s chatty blog, trying to drum up eyeballs.

“What do you think of this one?” asks the anonymous Tactus blogger. “I’m all intrigued as to what this shows us! Maybe you can take a few guesses about what this photo means the device in question will look like?”

We’ll give it a go: it’s clear from the photograph that the Next iPad is going to be rectangular. Or as Tactus might say, rectactangular.

“Or maybe like me you’re not a big fan of the suspense, and you just want to know as much as you can…,” Tactus the Tease teases. “Well who am I to leave you waiting?”

What follows has nothing to do with the purported case or what it might reveal, but simply a compost heap of some long-standing, widely circulated rumors: the mythical A7X Apple-designed processor, thinner bezels, a “retina resolution screen” (not much of a rumor since both the third- and fourth-generation iPads have it), “the form factor of the recently released iPad mini,” and “great news” in the form of a IGZO display.

“Apple are finally supposed to be using IGZO displays with their retina resolution screen, which means a thinner iPad is definitely on the cards,” Tactus breathlessly declares. “IGZO displays use up to 90% less power than previous generation iPad displays, which means a smaller battery that reduces the overall weight and thickness.”

The word “finally” suggests that IGZO (for Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) displays have been around for years but due to some inexplicable Apple idiocy the company refused to make use of them.

In fact, one of the leaders in IGZO technology, Japan’s Sharp, only announced its first IGZO product, a 32-inch monitor in January; and about the same time “finally” announced commercial availability in Japan of IGZO screens sized for smartphones and tablets. It demonstrated both in the January 2013 Consumer Electronics Show

There are several benefits of IGZO, as this August 2012 story appearing on PCWorld.com makes clear. Among the benefits: electrons move faster in IGZO, so the transistor associated with each pixel can be made much smaller; so can the pixels, with the result that you can pack a lot more pixels into the same area; IGZO transistors don’t have to be refreshed constantly when showing a still image, so less power is drawn; finally, lower power consumption means less interference with the screen’s electronics, making for more sensitive and more accurate touch.

Weirdly, the Tactus blogpost makes no attempt to ascertain anything about or from the picture itself, about the shell’s dimensions or design on their own or from whomever supplied the photo. Assuming the photo isn’t completely made-up to begin with.

iPad mini 2 will be a cheaper cheap iPad

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has seen the future and it’s the iPad mini. But cheaper.

According to Eric Slivka’s post at MacRumors, Kuo “looks to the iPad mini as the future of the company's iPad portfolio.”

But there’s a problem. Apple is trying to bring the Retina display to the next iPad mini and that’s “pushing a launch back” to near the end of 2013. So, according to Slivka, Kuo “suggests that Apple may be looking at a lower-priced iPad mini.”

This is confusing, if you think about it. Either Kuo or Slivka seems to be saying that Apple was planning to deliver a Retina display iPad mini 2 earlier in 2013, but they had to delay it. So, in the meantime, they whipped up an alternative tablet product: finagled a few things, cut out some features, limit storage and PRESTO! A cheaper iPad min that will retail for somewhere between $199 and $249.

The meeting at One Infinite Loop might have gone like this….

Tim Cook, bean counter: “This is terrible. We have to offer them something this year! Any ideas?

Jonathan Ive, design genius: “That’s what you pay me for, Tim. [flips over a slightly used napkin and starts to scribble on it] We just take the existing iPad mini, drop the camera, cut the storage, switch to a 32 nanometer silicon process, find more component suppliers to get lower costs, and PRESTO! We can have a cheaper iPad mini in a few weeks. Whaddaya say?

Tim Cook: “Awesome.”

A product like the iPad or iPhone or iPod takes years, as in multiple 365-day units, to design, prototype, source components, tool manufacturing lines, assemble, ship, market and support. So the suggestion that a “delay” in one product caused Apple to create another product in less than 12 months to fill in the unexpected gap seems far-fetched. If a cheaper iPad mini is in the works, it’s been in the works for years.

Kuo doesn’t seem excited by the prospect. “Kuo does not believe that such a device would offer a significant boost to Apple's overall iPad sales, but it could help stave off erosion at the low end of the market at the hands of cheaper Android-based tablets,” according to Slivka.

Staving off erosion at the low-end of the market, without significantly boosting Apple’s overall iPad sales. Sounds like a winning strategy for sure.

“Apple is said to be pursuing a similar strategy for the iPhone, working on a lower-cost iPhone with a polycarbonate shell rumored for launch later this year,” Slivka writes, reminding readers of what “is said” by other stock analysts and rumor sites. If the company is rumored to be doing it for one product, that’s a perfectly good reason to suppose it’s doing it for another product.

So far, Apple has avoided segmenting the iPad and iPhone product lines to the degree it did with the iPod. The iPad is available in two sizes, with the mini currently lacking the high resolution Retina display of the full-size tablet. A Retina display iPad mini would give users a choice between a larger and a smaller iPad, differentiated mainly by screen size and partly by different processors.

Kuo seems to think that Apple has concluded that still-cheaper iPad mini is needed to “stave off erosion” at the low end.

But there’s not much evidence that Apple actually wants to compete at the low end tablet market or thinks there is a need to do so now: there will always be cheaper Android alternatives.

“Overall, Kuo sees relatively small sales growth for the iPad in 2013, with the full-size iPad being cannibalized by the popular iPad mini and the upgraded iPad mini with Retina display not debuting until late in the year,” according to Slivka. Much of this seems pure conjecture, which can’t be checked until the end of this year, and maybe never because Apple doesn’t break out iPad mini vs. full-size iPad sales.

Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged in the April earnings call with analysts that Apple’s growth rate is slowing, for a variety of reasons. At the same time, its growth rate so far has been much faster than either iPod or iPhone, as this chart compiled by APPLinvestor.net shows

iPad 5 will be released in October 2013

A GottaBeMobile blogpost repeated the confident assertion of a new Note To Investors by Citigroup Global Securities.

“These new release dates match up with Tim Cook’s comments at the Apple Q2 earnings call, which brought news that Apple’s new products and services won’t arrive until the Fall,” GottaBeMobile’s Josh Smith helpfully explains.

Cook’s comments created a reset for three main mobile product rumors. [see “Apple's Cook resets 3 popular, and wrong, Apple rumors”] With regard to product announcement dates, Cook said the following: “Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can’t wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014. We continue to be very confident in our future product plans.”

Until that point, rumor sites and stock analysts had been predicting iPad releases for just about every month from April through November. It’s impossible to tell whether Citigroup actually knows something or they’re just gambling that there’s now a much higher probability that their latest guess on the iPad release date will be right, thanks to Cook’s clear statement that announcements will begin “in the fall.”

Smith didn’t read the Note To Investors. He apparently translated a Chinese language Website, China Times, which did. But according to Google Translate, the China Times original is not quite as specific as Smith says. Here’s the translated sentence: “The new 9.7-inch iPad and iPad mini remained originally expected in September and October.”

In other words, just about 12 months after the iPad mini and the fourth generation iPad were announced. Or, you know, in the fall.

iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 will be delayed because an Apple chip designer left

To be fair, this isn’t much of a rumor because most of the iOSphere got it right the first time.

But the wrongness is evident in some posts, like this one at TechThirsty.com, which explains that chipmaker AMD managed to rehire chip designer Raja Korudi from Apple, “leaving Apple in the lurch.”

That’s because Korudi “was rumored to be working on the brand new A7 processor,” which other rumors say will be in the iPad 5 or the iPad mini 2 or both.

“[W]ith Korudi leaving Apple at this juncture, we wonder what would be the fate of the next generation tablets,” wonders TechThirsty’s Aiswarya Gopan.

The only problem with this whole line of speculation is that Korudi wasn’t involved in the CPU design per se. His specialty, and the reason AMD wanted him back, is in graphics processing.

Korudi’s impact -- along with fellow AMD alum Bob Drebin and Jim Keller, who also worked at AMD at one point but came to Apple, with many other silicon engineers, via the $278 million PA Semi acquisition in 2008 -- is evident in the advances Apple has made in graphics processing.

“Apple tends to ship some of the fastest GPU hardware in the mobile industry, and its work in bringing high-DPI displays to virtually all of its products is unparalleled,” posted Anand Lal Shimpi, founder of AnandTech, writing about Korudi switch to AMD. “Apple also played a huge role in driving the performance of Intel’s processor graphics. It turns out, that’s what happens when you hire a bunch of crazy smart GPU folks.”

Keller’s decision to rejoin AMD last year potentially could have affected Apple’s processor plans, but his exact role at Apple is unclear. According to Shimpi, Keller, a CPU architect, “was responsible for one of the more memorable AMD CPU architectures [the K8], as well as played an unknown role in the development of Apple’s own CPU roadmap (Keller likely had a hand in the planning for Swift).”

Swift is Apple’s first fully custom ARM CPU core, which debuted in the iPhone 5 last October. Previously, the company’s internally designed A series processors relied on cores licensed from ARM Ltd. Apple is one of handful of companies, such as Qualcomm, that holds an ARM license that allows it to create its own core to run the ARM instruction set. AnandTech published a detailed overview of Swift shortly after the iPhone 5 was unveiled

Apple’s Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of technologies, who reports directly to CEO Tim Cook, now oversees Apple’s chip development and its wireless efforts.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwjohn_cox@nww.com

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