This week, the iOSphere's fill-in-the-blanks rumoring explains how an explosion at a manufacturing plant that is not yet actually building anything can delay not only the Apple iPad 3 but the iPad 2.

Even though another rumor recycles 3-month-old rumors that the iPad 3 is already in production or will be pretty quick before those wild and crazy Chinese start celebrating the New Year.

In other rumors, a single sentence ignites a speculative frenzy about the 7.85-inch iPad 3, and an obscure component from a parts reseller reveals a "major hardware redesign" for the next iPad.

You read it here second.

"The new [iPad 3] part, when compared with iPad 2, shows a different arrangement in internal circuitry, hinting a major re-design."

~ Mike Webb, Cydia Blog

iPad 3 will be delayed due to explosion at Shanghai plant

A Reuters news story reported that a Shanghai, China plant owned by a subsidiary of Pegatron Corp., one of Apple's suppliers, "was rocked by an explosion" last weekend, injuring 61 workers, a third of them hospitalized.

Reuters: "The Pegatron plant was slated to produce back panel parts for the iPad 2, according to China's Yi Cai Daily. Pegatron declined to disclose details of the plant's customers but a source with knowledge of the matter said the facility would be partly used to make products for Apple." Pegatron's CFO, Charles Lin, told Reuters, "the factory has not started operations yet. Part of the facility is still under pre-operation inspection and part is running trial production."

Nowhere does the Reuters story mention "iPad 3." But for the iOSphere, that's simply an invitation to fill in the blanks.

Which a host of tech Websites promptly did.

At the aptly named Gadgetsteria.com, Mike Norris struck an appropriately alarmist note, in a blogpost headlined "Pegatron Plant Explosion Injures Dozens, Could Affect iPad 2/3 Production."

With no additional information about what the not-yet-operational plant actually would be building for Apple in the future, Norris interpreted the explosion as "possibly affecting ongoing iPad 2 production as well as upcoming iPad 3 production too."

Norris misquotes the Reuters' story and added "iPad 3" as pure free-form speculation: the plant, he writes, is "currently testing production for an 'unspecified product' (read: ipad 3)." The phrase "unspecified product" doesn't appear in the Reuters story.

That's the problem with the LameStream Media: they keep letting facts get in the way of rumors.

Get ready for a 7.85-inch iPad 3 model

The ever-fecund Digitimes triggered a tsunami of tspeculation with a single sentence, predicting a 2012 iPad with a 7.85-inch screen.

"Apple is likely to launch a 7.85-inch iPad prior to the fourth quarter of 2012 in addition to a new iPad scheduled to be released at the end of the first quarter, according to sources in the supply chain."

You can take this seriously because Digitimes quotes "sources" instead of "a source."

The smaller-screened model is Apple's response to "increasing market competition including the 7-inch Kindle Fire from Amazon and the launch of large-size smartphones from handset vendors." As a result, "Apple has been persuaded into the development of 7.85-inch iPads, the sources indicated." The same sources also "indicated" that supply chain vendors "are likely to begin production of the 7.85-inch models at the end of the second quarter of 2012."

The great thing about Digitimes' stories is they lend themselves so well to the Expansive Interpretive Principal of the iOSsphere. Here's how CRN's Australian Website expansively interpreted Digitimes: "According to a fresh report, Apple is beavering away in its Cupertino labs creating a smaller 7.85in iPad Mini, set to be unleashed on the world around September 2012."

"Report" sounds much more authoritative than "rumor." And the addition of all those entirely made-up but essential details - the image of Apple engineers hard at work in their labs - gives the rumor immediacy and concreteness.

Apperia even created a helpful visual mockup showing the relative sizes of the two screens. And they figured out Apple's Grand Plan behind this innovation: "The goal is for this iPad Mini to retain the iPad's resolution at 1024×768, so that Apple can market the real iPad 3 with higher resolution/retina display."

That makes a kind of sense in the rarified air of the iOSsphere: "We're offering you a smaller iPad 3 with the same resolution as the iPad 2, so you can compare it with the "real" iPad 3, which has a much higher resolution, and buy it instead."

The rumor, of course, fails to address why Apple would introduce a 7.8-inch iPad given the general lack of success of the rival 7-inch tablets so far, with the possible exception of the new Amazon Kindle Fire, and the corresponding spectacular, continued success of the iPad with its 9.7-inch screen. Apple didn't guess about that size: it went through a complex design process before deciding on a size that it thought would be optimal for its target market. The early success of the Kindle Fire, which may owe as much to its much lower price compared to the iPad, doesn't throw that decision into doubt.

"Previously it was never going to happen as Steve Jobs felt a 7in iPad couldn't display the software well enough, but now with all sorts of Retina Displays being made by Apple, anything is possible," writes CRN's Sophia Charara.

"Anything is possible." Spoken like a true rumorista.

iPad 3 is a MAJOR hardware redesign

We can be sure of this because TVC-Mall, a China-based "online electronics wholesale mall for consumer electronics," is now offering a "Microphone Mic Flex Cable Ribbon Replacement" for iPad 3. 

So, a wholesaler that offers replacement parts for products is offering a replacement part for a product that isn't available, and may not even be assembled. But they have a factory where everyone works in white coats, and they're ISO-certified and everything.

Now it is true that a Microphone Mic Flex Cable Ribbon Replacement might not mean much to you and me. But it means a lot to "Mike" at CydiaBlog.com, where he gives an astute, insightful technical analysis of this seemingly obscure part. The headline: "New iPad 3 Internal Replacement Part Appears, hints Major Redesign."

Who knew?

Mike's analysis includes painstaking description of the part, for those who for some reason can't understand the accompanying photograph of it. "The new part, when compared with iPad 2, shows a different arrangement in internal circuitry, hinting a major re-design," Mike writes. "The tail end of the part makes a 'U-turn', whereas the iPad 2's Microphone Mic Flex Cable makes almost 90-degree turn both ways."

There's only one problem. "The existence of these parts does not necessarily means that it will make its way into the final iPad 3 model," Mike admits.

No! Why not? "Manufacturers are often asked to develop multiple versions of parts to test different possible designs and many of them don't make it past Apple's research lab," Mike reveals.

Oh.

Well, John Pope at AllTouchTablet.com is much more optimistic. The "new components leaked on the web point towards a major redesign under the screen, which seems to be consistent with Apple's past years strategy of brining [sic] a radically changed architecture every two generations," he writes. You just need to understand the importance of that "U-turn" thing as it relates to "architecture," a term which has no precise meaning in the iOSphere, which is why it can be used to describe everything and anything Apple does. Or might do.

iPad 3 production has started

The techWeb must be out shopping for the holidays. That's one way to account for recycling 3-month-old rumors as if they were deja new.

"The iPad 3, one of the most anticipated gadgets for 2012 -- after the iPhone 5 -- is underway with new reports indicating that production has been pushed forward ahead of the Chinese New Year, Computer World reports," said a breathless post this week at International Business Times.

"Although there has been no official announcement about the tablet's release date, reports, insiders and tech blogs all indicate the product will be unveiled in March 2012, with a release to soon follow," the post continued.

The post didn't link to Computerworld, a sister publication to Network World, nor to any other "sources" that it referenced for its rumor rehash. "The initial production of the iPad 3 is thought to be around 1-1.5 million units, according to a report obtained by the Daily Mail," IBT posted.

That citation apparently refers to this post at the Mail, which ran Nov. 22, a month ago: "Leaks from Asian sources have hinted that Apple's iPad 3 will arrive in Spring 2012 - and will have an all-new connector."

According to the Mail, "Production of the tablet has been pushed forward in factories owned by Apple suppliers, ahead of Chinese New Year on January 22-28."

But the Mail, like IBT, was also applying the iOSsphere's Expansive Interpretive Principle [see above], because it was based on a CNET post, which appeared two months ago, on Oct. 24: "iPad 3 could launch in March, with connector issues, report says."

That "report" was actually a post at Macotakara, a Mac blog in Japan, in Japanese. The blog claimed its information was from a "reliable Asian source," who told them that the "next generation tablet is being rushed into production due to Chinese New Year celebrations running from January 22-28." Clearly, one can't have something like the Next Generation Tablet interfering with Chinese New Year celebrations.

Macotakara, which sounds too close to Macotaco for comfort, has a bit of a spotty record with its "reports." In August, 9to5Mac posted about a then-new Macotakara blog entry that "an iPhone 4S variant along with a new iPad will arrive in the same timeframe" in September 2011. 9to5Mac's Jordan Kahn, trustingly described the Macotakara post as "adding more weight to these [other] claims" of the start of iPhone 5 and iPad 3 production.

And we all know how that turned out.