By Olga Kharif
(c) 2011 Bloomberg News
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 2:44 PM
Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., the world's biggest technology company by market value, may unveil its new iPad tablet computer at an event March 2 in San Francisco.
An Apple invitation sent to reporters today with the image of a corner of an iPad, says, "Come see what 2011 will be the year of." The event will be held at 10 a.m. local time.
The original iPad went on sale April 3, and Apple sold almost 15 million units through its first fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 25. The device accounted for 17 percent of revenue in the period, compared with 39 percent for the iPhone, which first reached the market in 2007.
The timing of the March 2 event would put the iPad on an annual cycle of updates similar to those of the iPhone and iPod media player, and keep Apple ahead of competitors, said Scott Sutherland, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. in San Francisco.
"The tablet becomes the next growth starter for the next two years for Apple," said Sutherland, who rates Apple shares "outperform" and doesn't own any. The company is releasing a second edition while many competitors are introducing their first tablets, he said.
Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.'s Xoom tablet will be available tomorrow, and Research In Motion Ltd. plans to release four versions of its PlayBook this year.
Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said in November that Apple may introduce a thinner iPad in the first half of 2011. Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group in Seaford, New York, said today he expects the updated iPad to offer longer battery life and front- and rear-facing cameras.
Apple is boosting its sales force to focus on burgeoning demand from business customers, particularly for the iPhone and iPad, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook told a shareholders' meeting today.
"We've never seen anything like this before," Cook said.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, rose $3.07 to $341.68 at 2:20 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares had gained 5 percent this year before today.