Updated: Looks Like The iPad 2 Will Launch Next Month

Updated 3.2.2011: Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) today unveiled its iPad 2 and as predicted, it’s thinner and faster. Also announced: iOS 4.3 with FaceTime (NYSE: TWX), Photo Booth, new iMovie and more. Plus, take our poll: do you plan on buying the iPad 2?

Updated: Several sources (look here and here) are now reporting that Apple is not facing any delays with production of the iPad 2. The device will be launched at an event in San Francisco on March 2. The news caps days of intense speculation over the device, as Verizon on Thursday gears up to launch the Motorola (NYSE: MMI) Xoom tablet, seen as the first Android device that will really provide viable competition against the iPad. Original post follows below.

Tablets were nearly as much of a story at Mobile World Congress as handsets were — a huge leap considering how small market share is today, and how relatively new they are on the market. This week there are even more reports and speculation about what will be in the next devices from Apple, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android and Microsoft, and when we might really get to see these things on the market.

iPad 2: Sightings and hints of Apple’s next-generation iPad have been cropping up here, there and everywhere, and everyone now seems to take as fact the thinner design, dual cameras, and better speakers and processors.

But when will we see them? Here’s one indirect clue: stock of the current crop of devices is, apparently, running out. 9to5 Mac is taking this as a sign that a new iPad could be coming as soon as next month. In Europe, it notes, reseller Carphone Warehouse has run out of its 64 GB WiFi model, and all 3G models; while T-Mobile and Orange have reduced the price on their 16 GB 3G/WiFi devices by half, to £99.99, for those buying them on two-year 3G contracts.

I’m inclined to be a bit cynical: these could be real shortages of finished lines (CPW) and a drive to shift stock before new devices arrive (the operators). But it could also be down to actual supply and production issues; two operators keen to drive sales after a lacklustre start to their subsidised iPad push. (Plenty of reports of slow sales for Orange around the holidays, but the operator has never confirmed directly.)

We’ll only know for sure next month. In the meantime, real fans can already start picking out their favorite color of case (pictured), or wait until June, if the report from Bloomberg — the device has now been delayed until June because of production delays at manufacturer Foxconn — sounds more credible.

Motorola Xoom: Meanwhile, we now have the latest teaser ad for the Xoom, a 15-second clip (embedded below) that embodies the Xoom sales slogan — “grab it and it grabs you” — and continues the sci-fi, brave new world theme introduced in the Xoom ad effort for the Super Bowl.

But hold on: it now looks like the tablet, due to launch this Thursday and priced at $600 with a two-year contract, will not come with Flash support until this spring. Up to now, Android tablet makers have been touting Flash support as a key differentiator against the iPad. But the small print in a Verizon ad, highlighted by AppleInsider, says that Flash will not be supported until Spring of this year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H86ckBYr3mU&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

Windows 8: And what about Microsoft? (NSDQ: MSFT) Tablets running Windows have never really taken off, with reports criticising their battery life and touch interface as inferior to those of the iPad and Android-based devices.

But of course Microsoft is trying to turn that around. There are reports that Windows 8 tablets, which will aim to fix these issues partly by adopting the system-on-a-chip technology, might be out as early as the end of this year.

Last week reports surfaced of Dell having a Windows 8 tablet ready by January 2012. And a research note from Morgan Stanley, reported by Business Insider, says that a tablet running Windows 8 on an ARM-based chipset could be out by the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012. Apparently Microsoft has put 1,000 engineers to on the project to make sure it runs smoothly, although others, such as ZDNet, point to a roadmap leaked last year, which indicates no devices will be out until at least the middle of 2012.