Apple Store Employee Ramp Up Hints at Imminent iPad 2, Verizon iPhone Launch

The New Year isn't even a week old yet, and we've already got Verizon iPhone and iPad 2 release date rumors percolating, based on reports that Apple is prohibiting time off for employees at its retail stores -- generally an indication of a major product launch.

"People familiar with the company's retail plans say Apple has issued a 'blackout' period spanning three weeks, during which retail employees without seniority will not be allowed vacation time. That blackout period is said to begin the last week of January and continue into the first half of February," write Neil Hughes and Kasper Jade of AppleInsider.com.

The report also says that Apple has kept on staff many of the extra personnel hired for the busy holiday shopping season.

The blogosphere is speculating -- again -- that the much-rumored CDMA-compatible iPhone for Verizon could be made available during the three-week, all-hands-on deck time period for Apple Store employees, as well as an iPad 2 and new MacBook Pros.

Verizon iPhone coming by February?

While there have been suggestions for years that the iconic iPhone, now sold exclusively on AT&T, will come to Verizon, the predictions of it coming to pass have made it out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream media as of late. Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Fortune have all reported that the Verizon iPhone will be a reality in "early 2011."

Additionally, Motorola's mobility chief during a presentation on Dec. 2 at the Credit Suisse 2010 Technology Conference suggested that the iPhone would come to Verizon in the first quarter. Sanjay Jha brought up the issue while providing guidance for analysts on the reporting period.

Jha during his Credit Suisse presentation said that there could be a new "competitive dynamic" at Verizon in Q1 of 2011 that could have a negative impact on the company's bottom line for the reporting period.

"The first quarter is seasonally down for our business over the last five years, and for the handset business in general...and of course, we have the additional challenge, potentially, at Verizon, there is a competitive dynamic developing there which may have an impact, given our strong relationship with Verizon, that may have an impact on our first quarter," said Jha.

iPad 2 too?

Perhaps more likely on the list of new mobile devices from Apple is the follow up to the iPad, as reports from a Taiwanese trade publication in November said that several touch panel and reinforced glass suppliers, including TPK Touch Solutions, WinTek, Cando and Cimei Innolux, were ramping up production in anticipation of an imminent iPad 2 release.

The next version of Apple's groundbreaking iPad tablet PC will include a forward-facing camera, FaceTime support, a USB port and be available to consumers and enterprises perhaps as soon as the first quarter of next year, according to the report by the Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes.

It's widely believed that Apple wants to roll out a new iPad model more quickly than the usual 12-to-14-month refresh cycle because the company wants to have a touchscreen tablet with a camera available to propagate its FaceTime video chat standard before the tablet sector becomes too crowded with viable competitors.

TAGS:

mobile, iPhone, iPad, Apple, Verizon

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