iPad 2 launch countdown: 3 antennas, 2nd of March, 1 camera

iPad 2 launch is (practically) official, as Apple hands out iPad-themed invitations.

The iPad 2 will likely be unveiled by Apple early next month. Here, customers clutter the stairs at the Apple store in New York.

The iPad 2 launch draws nigh.

Earlier today, Apple began issuing invites to an iPad-related event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco – an event that is almost certainly designed to showcase the next generation of the best-selling iPad tablet. How do we know? Well, for one, the timing lines up – the first iPad was unveiled around this same time last year – and Apple is nothing if not consistent.

Meanwhile, the invitation syncs with an earlier report, from The Wall Street Journal, that Apple would very soon be taking the wraps of the iPad 2. The new iPad, Swisher reported, will be "thinner than its predecessor and feature an improved display."

ALSO SEE: 10 most intriguing tablets of 2011

It will also apparently ship with up to three antennas (Wi-Fi, GSM, and CDMA) and a "front-facing camera and Facetime video chat support," just like the iPhone 4.

Caveat: Of course, nowhere is it written that Apple must take the wraps off an iPad 2 at the March 2 event. Maybe the company is planning instead to introduce a new operating system, or a new piece of software, or.... something. OK, fine. It's probably going to be the iPad 2. Still, we're not exactly sure how to explain a recent rumor, still very much in circulation, that the iPad 2 won't ship until June.

According to CNET, a Taiwan brokerage firm called Yuanta Securities is speculating that "production bottlenecks" have delayed the original launch date on the iPad 2. More on that here.

In the meantime, make sure to sign up for the free weekly Innovation newsletter. The newsletter, which includes all sorts of tech and gadget news – from the latest iPad 2 rumor to reviews and analysis – is emailed out every Wednesday morning.

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