The rumor mill has started again. Does it ever stop? But this time (for once) Apple is not at the center of it - this time it's the turn of Nintendo to bathe in the blinding light of speculation and is, to a large extent, the company's own doing. In what has to be amongst the shortest releases I have ever seen, Nintendo has announced the forthcoming availability of a new portable gaming device where users will be able to enjoy 3D effects without glasses.

The official announcement is less than a couple of days old but already the Nintendo 3DS has its own Wikipedia page, and is the subject of much inventive and speculative muttering in the tech world. Rumors aside for a moment to have a look at what is actually known about the device.

Nintendo's press release simply tells of a mobile gaming device where "games can be enjoyed with 3D effects without the need for any special glasses" and that the company will launch the product (the 3DS is a working moniker) some time before March 2011. That's about it, apart from a few sales statistics, the fact that the new handheld will be backward compatible and the promise that additional details will appear at the E3 show in Los Angeles this coming June.

And now for a brief summary of what's been suggested, starting with reports in the Japanese newspaper Nikkei which claims that Nintendo "plans to give the new system a 3-D joystick and a force feedback mechanism that will let players feel the collisions of a game character". Additionally, the company is believed to be considering "employing an accelerometer so that games can be played by tilting the 3DS".

Another Japanese news source, Asahi, has speculated that the "screens will likely consist of Sharp Corp's 3-D liquid crystal panels that offer 3-D imagery to the naked eye" and will be no larger than four inches across (tiny bit smaller than the DSi XL/LL). And a report in the New York Times quotes Nintendo's Ken Toyoda who suggests that the 3DS will be available at E3 in June for "people to play with".

There's been lots of guessing about how the system will work and what's going to be powering the new device and even whether there'll be a market for portable 3D gaming but in the end, we'll just have to wait until the folks at Nintendo decide to show it off. Maybe in June.