iPad 2 launch on 2 March, but does UK event imply immediate availability?

Apple has issued invitations to what looks like the launch of the second iPad -- and you're invited too. There's an event in London, which usually means it'll be out very soon...

Stand by your beds! Apple has issued invitations to the launch of the new Apple iPad. The announcement takes place next Wednesday, 2 March -- and you're invited.

CNET UK is invited, anyway, and that's the next best thing. Although the main announcement will take place in San Francisco as usual, we'll be reporting from Apple's launch event in London with all the news, as well as our hands-on first impressions of the iPad 2.

The fact that there's a UK launch is encouraging for us Britons who dont like to wait for our shiny new gadgets. In our experience, a UK press preview with lots of devices to play with often means a very short wait for the new product to hit shops -- sometimes a mere matter of days.

Could the new iPad be in stores by the end of next week? That would be a serious coup for Apple, and a massive step in securing its position at the top of the tablet tree, as it would mean the iPad 2 is available before the Motorola Xoom and other rival Android Honeycomb tablets.

The invitation doesn't give much away, coquettishly revealing a teasing glimpse of the corner of an iPad. The picture suggests that the battery indicator, lock switch, power button and volume controls are all still in the same place. So it could all be a massive wind-up and Apple's just announcing some dull new productivity software.

But hopefully we'll finally see how much of the rumour and speculation will be proved correct: will the next generation of Apple tablet have an improved screen? Will it pack a decent camera? What will it be called? No matter what the answers to these questions, at least it'll put an end to the fevered imaginings, salacious gossip and bare-faced poppycock surrounding the sequelicious slate.

Until the iPad 3 rumour mill kicks in, of course...

The iPad launch event kicks off at 6pm on Wednesday 2 March. Keep it CNET UK for all the news and our first impressions of the new device, and in the meantime, tell us your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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