Feb. 10, 2011— -- As if the possibility of one new Apple iPad this year wasn't enough to get the rumor mill going, some industry watchers now say the company might actually come out with two versions of its popular touch screen tablet this year.
On Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that the iPad 2 is in production and expected to be announced in the next couple of months.
But no sooner had the tech world digested that bit of news than two popular tech blogs wrote about the possibility of an iPad 3 hitting the market later this year.
On his site, Daring Fireball, technology blogger John Gruber said he suspected that after shipping an iPad 2 as early as April, after a March announcement, Apple could ship an iPad 3 in September. The TechCrunch blog joined the discussion too.
Even though releasing two iPads in the same year would be an unusual step for Apple, he said that given the growing competition in the field (from Hewlett-Packard, Google, Motorola, Research in Motion and others), Apple would want to stay ahead of its rivals.
"Thus, my gut feeling is that Apple will move the iPad to a September release schedule, alongside the iPods," he said. "But they wouldn't want to wait over a year and a half from the announcement of the original iPad to announce the second one — not with these stakes, and not with so many serious competitors trying their best to catch up."
TechCrunch said a source told it that a "fall surprise" from Apple is connected to another new version of the iPad.
When reached by ABCNews.com, an Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
Analyst: Apple Is Confident About iPad 2, Expected to Unveil Before End of April
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, said if Apple thinks its iPad is falling behind competitors, it could roll out a third version earlier than next year. But he said he hasn't heard anything indicating that might happen.
"They might if the iPad 2 technology execution appears to be falling behind what is going on with regard to Android and other competing products," he said. "I do know that Apple is very confident about the iPad 2 and outspoken about it. And we pretty much know now what all the competitors will have, so it would be unusual for [Apple] to be unconfident. "
Still, he said the expected iPad 2 features, including a faster dual-core processor and full 4G support on AT&T and Verizon, should keep it in line with rivals.
The new iPad 2 is expected to be flatter, lighter and sturdier than the original and include a front-facing camera to enable video conferencing. Enderle said it could start shipping in March and he expects Apple to announce it before the end of April.