Apple Seen Prepping Thinner iPad For 2011

Qualcomm CDMA-GSM chip will enable next-generation tablet to run on most cellular networks in U.S., Europe and Asia.

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Apple plans to launch early next year a second-generation iPad that's thinner and capable of running on cellular networks worldwide, according to media reports.

The next iPad will reportedly include a Qualcomm chip that makes it possible to run the 3G version of the tablet-style computer on CDMA and GSM cellular networks. Such a move would make it possible for the one device to run on the cellular networks of the four major U.S. wireless carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless -- as well as on the networks of carriers in Europe and Asia.

"Recent checks suggest Apple is going to be ratcheting down production of the existing 3G iPad over the next two months in anticipation of ramping up a new World iPad that is powered by Qualcomm and will run on both GSM- and CDMA-based networks around the world," said Brian Blair, analyst for Wedge Partners, as cited Friday by The Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital Web site.

Blair said that his recent Qualcomm channel checks also reveal that Apple is preparing to build about 48 million iPads next year and that the devices will be thinner than the current model. To reduce the thickness, Apple is making the new iPad out of a single piece of metal, essentially adopting a manufacturing process similar to what it uses for its unibody MacBooks.

Apple doesn’t comment on future products. However, Ezra Gottheil, analyst for Technology Business Research, told InformationWeekthat the report makes sense, given Apple's longtime strategy of avoiding the production of several versions of the iPhone to run on networks based on different standards. In the U.S., for example, the iPhone has only run on AT&T's network since its release in 2007, though a Verizon version is reportedly near completion.

"It certainly makes sense for Apple to produce a run-anywhere product," Gottheil says of the iPad report. "Apple always wants a definitive, single product."

Meanwhile, Taiwan-based DigiTimes quoted anonymous sources in reporting that Ibiden, Tripod Technology and TTM Technologies will be the initial manufacturers of the printed circuit boards for the new iPad, which the publication says Apple is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2011.


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