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iPad 3: New Picture In An Old Frame

Apple’s iPad 3 overall design will resemble its predecessors despite major internal upgrades

Apple’s iPad 3 will resemble its predecessors, right down to the circular home button and a camera hole in the top bezel.

That information comes from Chinese Website Sina Weibo, which displayed a purported image of the iPad 3’s front assembly. The image also found its way onto Apple-centric blog MacRumors.

New ribbon under the bonnet

“The part appears nearly identical to that of the iPad 2,” the blog reported, “with the major distinguishing feature being a relatively long ribbon able extending up the side of the display as opposed to a shorter cable with a sideways orientation seen in the iPad 2.”

With pundits and tech media widely expecting Apple to unveil the iPad 3 during the first week of March, the rumour mill surrounding the next-generation tablet has kicked into full gear. Among the predicted features: a higher-resolution screen and more powerful processor and camera. On 9 February, AllThingsD reported that the iPad 3’s screen would feature 2048×1536 resolution, along with an improved graphics processing unit paired to a faster chip.

As a whole, the iPad range enters 2012 in a particularly strong market position. Throughout 2011, other tablets have plunged into the tablet arena with huge advertising budgets and the stated aim of becoming an “iPad killer”, only to find apathetic customers and a general lack of buzz.

“Our checks indicate modest sales of most competing tablet offerings including the Motorola Xyboard, RIM PlayBook, HTC View 4G, Samsung Galaxy tab and several other Android based devices,” T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, wrote in a January research note. “Also consistent with our checks, the Amazon Kindle Fire did not adversely impact iPad sales but more likely had a greater impact on e-reader sales.”

Apple’s next big tablet challenge might come in late 2012, when it will face Windows 8 on Microsoft and its manufacturing partners. Whatever features included with the iPad 3, they will need to prove capable of beating back that challenge, in addition to keeping Android at bay.

Apple is also wrestling with some controversy over the iPad’s manufacture. In late January, The New York Times published a series of reports about working conditions at Foxconn, which builds Apple’s bestselling products. “The workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labour in harsh conditions,” it said, using information partly drawn from unnamed factory employees. “Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious, sometimes deadly, safety problems.”

Those reports drew a fair amount of negative attention to Apple. In January, it became the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association, and its suppliers apparently opted to cooperate fully with a “special voluntary audit” by the organisation. “We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a statement.

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