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iPad 2 rumours continue to swirl, but will it be trumped by the iPad 3?

Apple will unveil its iPad 2 next Wednesday at an event in San Francisco, as was made clear by yesterday's official invite to journalists. The announcement has intensified the speculation about the device.

Apple will unveil its iPad 2 next Wednesday at an event in San Francisco, as was made clear by yesterday's official invite to journalists. The announcement has intensified the speculation about the device, its potential successor, and the software around it.

Japanese blog iLab has published photos of 'mockup' iPad 2 hardware, which it says is accurate, based on manufacturing sources. The pictures appear to show the iPad 2 is noticeably thinner than the first iPad, with a new speaker grille on the rear of the device.

US site iLounge is muddying the waters by suggesting that what's shown off next week may not be the 'real' iPad 2, but more of a stopgap model -- comparable to the way iPhone 3GS sat between the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4.

iPad 1.5? It hardly trips off the tongue. "Our sources aren't sure whether Apple is going to release the iPad 1.5 now and call it the iPad 2, hold off a few months and release something dramatically better, or hold off a few months and release the iPad 1.5," explains the story.

More wild speculation? You got it! Analyst firm RBC Capital Markets is predicting that Apple will sell 30 million iPad 2 tablets between April this year and March 2012, Boy Genius Report reports. RBC boss Mike Abramsky expects the iPad 2 to include a beefier 1.2GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, rear and front-facing cameras, and a thinner, lighter design.

These specs are so widely repeated, it would be more surprising if one of them is lacking when the device is unveiled next week. More interesting is the ongoing speculation around Apple software that could appear in future iPads and iPhones.

At Apple's annual shareholder meeting last night, the company said its new $1bn data centre in North Carolina -- which is about to open -- will be used to support iTunes and MobileMe.

That's a strong hint that the long-expected cloud/streaming iTunes is on the way, not to mention the recently rumoured revamp of MobileMe as an ambitious social-media locker service.

Meanwhile, details of an Apple patent for a graphics editing application for iPad and iPhone have emerged. Patently Apple has the details of what it describes as 'Photo Booth for iPad', which will include the ability to apply effects such as X-Ray, Glow and Nightvision to your photos.

Bad news for apps such as Instagram that offer similar filter-based photo manipulation features, although Apple may not have the same level of social features in any Photo Booth iOS app. At least not yet...