Following up on the iPad 2 announcement, here is a bit of a prediction on what Apple will do next. This also informs my current thought to hold back on an upgrade (although for me the two things that are holding me back more is the desire for an iPhone and the fact I already own an iPad).
I think there is a real possibility that the iPad 3 will be released before the end of the year. It will have and identical form factor to the iPad 2, but include further improvements in performance, storage, camera resolution and include iOS enhancements such as wireless sync, improved mail (add attachments?), reduced weight (carbon fibre body).
Why before year end? To nail the Christmas market. To firmly position the iPad family in the hearts and homes of as many people as possible. To raid the Christmas PC market.
It will also include the retina display, so twice the resolution of the current model. Fabulous for viewing images.
The form factor will be added to create another new market defining device. Given that apps will be adapted to provide higher resolution images for the retina display, this also means that Apple can double the physical size of the device as an additional model. No, it’s not meant to be highly portable like a phone or an iPad, but more like a laptop. It will kill the PC as a home computing device, coupled with a Bluetooth keyboard, you won’t need a laptop or desktop any more, and because of it’s form factor, it will be way more personal than the PC ever could be (and I include the conventional Macs when I say PC).
This large format device will create new markets in home media consumption, business presentation, shared gaming experiences, art and design apps (so may also support some sort of stylus input for greater precision), and also will offer greater benefit in use as a second display for desktop apps (input device for Photoshop for example, much like the Wacom Cintiq device). Just look at how Apple are positioning the iPad 2 as a media device – the desktop is going die a swift and painful death, and it will tear into the music creation market.
Touch Sensitive Rear Cover
I now believe they will introduce a touch sensitive rear surface, and as a major breakthrough, this could even be tactile.
That could be a bit of a stretch, but the new SmartCovers mean that the rear cover now is exposed. For certain apps, particularly games, addiitional input controls via the rear surface mean more of the display can be kept clear of input controls. Obviously this will be more of a personal preference, so apps will need to provide settings to enable/configure the rear inputs, and to keep the apps backward compatible with earlier revisions.
I’m less sure how the tactile bit might work, because you’d need to ‘feel’ which prevents touch. Maybe this is too far fetched, or at least won’t appear until a later release.
The iPad 2 will continue to be sold but with a significantly reduced price point, much like the iPhone 3GS exists in the iPhone line up today. This will destroy the emerging competition, which will still not be able to compete on technology.
So you will have iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad 3HD.