A lot of hearsay and speculation floated around Apple Feb. 22, as financial analysts reported that Apple’s iPad 2 follow-up to the smash-hit tablet that sold some 15 million units would be pushed back. Taiwanese brokerage Yuanta Securities said production bottlenecks at Apple’s manufacturing partner Hon Hai may delay the iPad 2 launch by as much as two months, pushing it to June. Clearly feeling the need to respond, Apple invited the media to a March 2 press event in San Francisco. So what does this all mean? It means the high-tech industry is in full-time iPad 2 watch mode. This couldn’t come at a worse time for tablet computers based on Google’s Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system. Honeycomb machines such as the Motorola Xoom offer premium features to differentiate from the inaugural iPad, and the idea is to get these to market before the iPad 2 arrives to entice consumers. But several Honeycomb tablets are about to hit the market, each of which may cannibalize enough of the others’ sales to prevent any one of them from grabbing much market share away from the iPad. If Apple unveils the iPad 2 March 2, it would likely get it into consumers’ hands in late March or early April, giving the Xoom only a month of sell time without the iPad 2 as a rival. The timing is worse for Android tablets arriving later this spring. Here we list just some of the tablets that a March iPad launch could impede.

iPad 2 Invitation

The media began receiving these invites from Apple Feb. 23, leaving little to the imagination.

No Xoom Boom

Motorola is banking on the Xoom, which launched Feb. 24 from Best Buy and Verizon Wireless, to stand out from the iPad. It certainly fits this bill, with its 10.1-inch screen, 3D graphics and 1GHz dual-core processor. But it does cost $799, unsubsidized, and $599 with a two-year data plan from Verizon Wireless. Will consumers be reluctant to buy it, with an iPad 2 coming down the pike?

T-Mobile G-Slate

Launching in March from T-Mobile the G-Slate is actually the LG Optimus Pad tablet powered by Honeycomb. The product, coming from LG, a smartphone maker that hasn’t exactly cultivated a lot of success with Android, and T-Mobile, the smallest U.S. wireless carrier, will have a tough go against the iPad 2.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Powered by a 1GHz dual-core chip, the 10.1-inch, 1,280-by-800 (WXGA) TFT (thin-film transistor) Galaxy Tab tablet will compete with the Xoom Honeycomb tablet in Europe when it goes on sale through Vodafone this spring. Samsung proved with the Galaxy Tab it can build a fine tablet. Unfortunately, Samsung hasn’t offered a timeline for a U.S. launch. That means that by the time it arrives stateside, the iPad 2 could have sold millions of the 50 million or so tablets analysts expect to ship this year.

Toshiba Tablet

This unnamed tablet is launching this spring with a 10.1-inch screen, rubberized finish and swappable battery. The latter two features are major differentiators from the iPad design. But Toshiba has as yet had no device in the Android race, making its tablet entry questionable in a sea of Honeycomb gadgets.

HTC Flyer

Wait a minute, you say. The HTC Flyer, which sports a stylus and HTC Sense UI, is launching with Android 2.4 this spring. Very true, but it’s also getting the Honeycomb bump later in the second quarter, at which point the iPad 2 will have, of course, shipped millions.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

Acer’s first Android tablet, the Iconia Tab A500 sports a 10-inch screen that plays 1080p HD video. The device ships in April, which is presumably when the iPad 2 will land. Good luck, Acer.

Dell Streak 10

This is just vaporware right now, but not really. Engadget sourced Dell as promising a Streak 10 tablet running Honeycomb later this year, likely well behind the Honeycomb pack. The blog blew up the Streak 7 to the 10-inch size here.

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