Apple’s iPad 2 event starts at 10AM Pacific, so a few thoughts on what to expect.
•An evolutionary improvement, not a revolution. Apple had the revolution with the iPad last year and there are at least two reasons not to expect any major improvements to the new device. First, it just isn’t yet economical to put a “retina class” display in a ten-inch device. Second, not one competitor has yet matched or exceeded the original iPad. Motorola’s Xoom is the closest — and it’s not all that close.
The new iPad will be thinner, maybe lighter. The new screen won’t have more pixels, but it might have improved antiglare. It will certainly have a front-facing FaceTime camera, as Apple strives to put FaceTime into every product they make. Rear camera? I’m less certain. One Xoom reviewer said that taking pictures with a tablet was like taking pictures with a shiny lunch tray. The new version of iOS will have some nice improvements: FaceTime, Photo Booth, and hopefully an improved alert system.
•There will be versions for both Verizon and AT&T cellular networks — and 4G speed is a real possibility, although I haven’t seen that discussed anywhere. Still, with Motorola providing free (but far from hassle-free) 4G upgrades for Xoom buyers, it makes sense for Apple to sell 4G right out of the box.
•Big improvements in the things real consumers don’t actually care about: processor speed & dual core, bus speed, system RAM and the graphics subsystem. Still, those improvements will make the iPad even iPaddier to use. That’s Apple’s secret sauce that competitors haven’t been able to match, even while boasting better system specs.
•Pricing and memory options will likely remain unchanged. Again, there’s no reason to cut into margins to stave off non-existent competitors. Apple can always drop prices closer to Christmas, when we may at long last be seeing some decent Android 3.0 tablets. But by then, Apple might already have iPad 3 ready to drop (although I doubt it).
One More Thing: It’s an outside chance, but imagine this: Apple drops the wifi-only models, but reduces the 3G (or possibly 4G) prices to the wifi levels of $499, $599 and $699. And why not? The 3G iPad doesn’t really cost Apple $130 more to make, and data plans are optional and require no subscription. My own experience is that the cellular connection makes computing truly ubiquitous for the first time ever — and ubiquitousness is what iPad is all about.
If Apple does this, there will be zero reason to buy anything other than iPad for the next year.
UPDATE: My most outrageous prediction — putting 3G in every model — was way off the mark. Looks like I took my “Steve Hates SKUs” theory a step too far. Again. Thinner, I expected and got. Although the fact that it’s thinner than a current iPhone I still find shocking. I didn’t expect much weight savings, and didn’t get much weight savings.
Pricing? Memory options? Unchanged as expected. Not surprised by the lack of 4G, but it would have been a nice addition. Under-the-hood improvements were on the money, and I didn’t mention new ports (Thunderbolt, USB, SD) because I didn’t expect Apple to add any. And Apple didn’t add any.
FaceTime, Photo Booth, front-and-rear facing cameras were all a go — but I still think people will look and feel rather silly taking pictures with a tablet. But what do I know? I refuse to take pictures without shoving a big-ass Nikon in front of my face.
Over all, iPad 2 is indeed an evolution, not a revolution. I’ll grade myself a solid B.