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Second-Generation iPad to Gain Carbon Fiber Body?

Figure from Apple patent application showing carbon fiber composite layers

In a post taking Engadget to task for trying to position its revised claims for the second-generation iPad as an actual change in Apple's plans, Daring Fireball's John Gruber uses a footnote to quietly report that he has heard from second-hand sources that Apple may be looking to use a carbon fiber body on the device.

I could publish things I'm only half-sure about, like the iPad 2 switching from aluminum to a lightweight high-strength carbon fiber body, but I don't, because I'm only half-sure and I've only heard about it from second-hand sources who themselves are unsure about it. And even if I were to off-handedly mention such speculation, I'd do so in a footnote and take pains to emphasize the uncertain nature of the information and the second-hand status of the sources thereof. What I would never do is take a flyer and report uncertain speculation as a fact, and, if it wound up not panning out, chalk it up to Apple having changed things at the last moment rather than the report being flat-out wrong all along.

Claims and speculation regarding a shift to carbon fiber shells for Apple's devices are not new, with a 2008 report suggesting that Apple was investigating the possibility of shifting the MacBook Air to a carbon fiber body, and a patent application surfacing a few months later revealing that Apple was at least interested in the possibility. More recently, iLounge reported earlier this month that prototype second-generation iPads with carbon fiber shells had been spotted but that it was unclear whether they would make it into production models.

Gruber has a strong record when it comes to Apple product rumors, but his careful wording in this case obviously suggests that the report should be taken with a healthy amount of skepticism unless or until new information surfaces.