iPhone 5, iPad 2 Reportedly Hit by Delays

Apple won't ship the iPhone 5 until September and the iPad 2.0 until June, reports are claiming, even as Apple's seemingly preparing to twin its future streaming music services with high-res "Lossless Audio" downloads via iTunes.

This morning Apple watchers are reeling as we consider news that the iPhone 5 may not launch until September. Late yesterday it was claimed the iPad 2.0 has also been delayed until June. Apple has previously introduced new iPhones in June or July each year. As a veteran Apple news-hound I'd warn against taking analyst claims as gospel truth -- though they certainly provide food for thought.

iPhone 5 design delay?

On strength of claims that Apple hasn't yet placed orders for some key iPhone 5 components, FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger writes "For the iPhone 5, we continue to hear that a July launch is unlikely."

He predicts Apple will shift 100 million iPhone this year, up from its own internal estimates of 75 million.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Similar delays may be afflicting the iPad 2.0. An analyst at Yuanta Securities claims Apple originally intended an April launch of iPad 2.0, but may have delayed this until June on strength of what he called "production bottlenecks" at manufacturing. The device reportedly went into production earlier this month.

On the case?

The video below purports to be of the new case for the new Apple tablet, which will be thinner than before. In line with expectations, there's an aperture that's likely to be for a camera and an internal space which could support a larger internal speaker. (However, despite the hype surrounding this video, it could easily be fake -- it isn't especially challenging to cut bits of leather up to flap them around on a webcam, after all.)

The shadowy supply chain source mentioned in the M.I.C. Gadget report also claims Apple is "preparing" the iPhone nano.

This is interesting because there are some claims that Apple intends introduction of an iPad 3.0 device this year. Personally I don't think any such plan exists -- I'd consider it more likely Apple intends introducing a higher-end iPad-type device to complement its existing offering.

What's the chatter within the noise?

And that's the crux here, really -- the iPhone nano, iPad 3.0 and speculation as to later-than-expected shipping dates for new models of the company's existing products at least suggest heightened chatter across Apple's supply lines. The contrasting clamorousness of these claims make me a little more certain Apple intends widening and diversifying its iPhone/iPad line-up.

Plans could -- but don't definitively -- include a Mac-like iPad Pro, a 7-inch iPod touch device (like an iPad, but not an iPad) and/or an iPhone nano. Wild speculation of course, but wild speculation is all anybody has to offer. Apple keeps incredibly tight control over internal leaks. It has internal security teams dedicated to tracking leaks and leakers down. Those few which do emerge are likely slipped by design: to tease the market, or to confuse competitors.

What could be causing these claimed delays? The iPad 2.0 delay has allegedly been caused by last-minute changes in the design of the devices.

Could these changes involve new touchscreen production processes?

Above: Angry Wintek workers riot in January 2010

Apple is known to have secured 60 percent of the world's touchscreen manufacturing capacity, and is facing a wave of protest from workers at its supplier, Wintek, who are begging the company to help support 137 workers who were poisoned during previous production processes.

Apple's recent Supplier Responsibility report claimed Wintek's production processes had been changed -- but also cited numerous instances of child labor being found working within its supply chain.

Synchronized shipping?

It is possible Apple is assembling the perfect storm:

On the one hand it is using its cash reserves to purchase huge stocks of key components for use in its planned device in a move which starves competitors of things they need to offer their own devices.

Apple is also buying time to ensure production, inventory and logistics are completely up to speed. As you might expect from its talented COO.

And Apple is planning a wave of services designed to boost the appeal of its devices: for example, NFC payment solutions and booths; iTunes streaming services; improved OS X/iOS integration and enhancements in MobileMe.

Take iTunes, for example. CNN tells us Apple is in talks with major labels to "improve the quality of the song files they sell."

This suggest a move to offer music at near CD-quality. This would be a huge move, bringing many true audiophiles into the digital ecosystem on the one hand, and pleasing many existing users.

Keep the music playing

Why is Apple doing this? I suggest it intends offering streaming music services, but doesn't want to destroy its existing and profitable a la carte downloads music business when it does. It makes sense to develop the latter as a complementary service. I can see the marketing: "Listen to all the music you like, buy all the music you love". In other words, listen at low-res via the streaming service, and purchase the music you want for your permanent collection in near CD-quality from the new revamped iTunes.

Apple previously upgraded the audio resolution of music sold via iTunes in January 2009, following a two-year trial of the 'iTunes Plus' service with EMI, announced by Jobs in London (EMI-supplied image above). Company executives may believe that should Apple move to offer new families of device boosted by world-class services unmatchable elsewhere, then its products should sell themselves. In millions.

What do you think? Let me know in comments below. I'd also very much like to invite you to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when I post new reports here first on Computerworld.

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