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The curious case of the missing iPad 3 home button

Apple unleashes its invitation for a special event next week that will undoubtedly bring the next iPad, but there's something missing.

Where's the home button?
Where's the home button? Apple/CNET

Eagle-eyed readers have been pointing out a curious omission on the imagery of the iPad-theme invitation Apple released this morning: there's no home button in sight.

The simplest explanation here is that it's a photo of (what is presumably) an iPad 2 on its side, something that's not that much of a stretch, given that the iPad has been designed to work the same way, no matter which end is down.

Yet it's also curious, given rumors of Apple ditching the home button on the iPad, an option that came to light when the company introduced multitouch gestures to developers in iOS 4.3 and later as a feature for users in iOS 5. One of those gestures is a full hand pinch that brings users back to the iPad's home screen, just like what would happen, if you clicked on the home button.

Readers might be scratching their heads at the familiarity of this all. Two months before Apple took the wraps off the iPad 2, a story from Boy Genius Report said Apple's next iPad would be the first iOS gadget to ditch the home button for gestures, with others like the iPhone and iPod Touch to follow. That obviously wasn't the case.

The case for phasing out a home button has become less clear, though. It's a pivotal part of using Siri on the iPhone 4S, with users holding it down for a few seconds to launch the voice assistant, and if Siri makes its way to other iOS devices, (including future iPads), it would be unusual to get rid of it. Apple has also kept the multitouch gesture feature optional, specifically to keep games and applications that make use of multifinger gestures from being compromised by the system.

On top of all this, some mysterious iPad 3 home buttons made the rumor rounds late last year, alongside what was alleged to be the glass front of the device, which--yep--had a spot for the home button.

One thing is for sure. We'll know the full story next week, when Apple's event goes down.