An early release is still plausible.
Earlier today, rumors popped up that iOS 4.3 would launch that day. The time given was 10 AM pacific, which has passed. But speculation that the update will launch ahead of the iPad 2's March 11 release continues. Jim Dalrymple of The Loop has reason to believe 4.3 will launch tomorrow.
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"If I were sitting waiting for iOS 4.3 to hit, I’d be ready tomorrow."
It's worth noting that the final build of this update was released to developers last Thursday. Speculation is rampant that 4.3 will hit ahead of the iPad 2. And there is some sense to it.
Friday is going to be a very big day for Apple's servers. Hundreds of thousands of iPad 2 users will be syncing their machines up to iTunes, downloading applications and registering their new tablets. Add in millions, perhaps tens of millions, of users trying to update their iPhones and iPads and you have a perfect recipe for bandwidth gridlock. Apple doesn't want to disrupt any part of the iPad 2's 'seamless' experience.
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So an early launch for iOS 4.3 is a sensible way to ease server strain on day 1. That doesn't mean it is a given- Steve Jobs did say that 4.3 was due Friday. But these rumors, plus common sense, make an early release something to look out for.