When the original iPad went on sale last year it was truly a groundbreaking product. Before the iPad tablet computers mainly existed as ordinary laptops that were converted to have a pen based touchscreen. The iPad was the first true tablet device that featured an easy user interface and exacting performance tailored for a touchscreen (in no doubt due to its iPhone roots).
In just about a year the iPad has become the overwhelmingly dominant product in the tablet computer space. There have been a few competitors here and there, but none have come close to equaling the iPad. Now, there are a whole slew of new tablets from other manufacturers coming onto the scene, all hoping to challenge the iPad's dominance.
Despite the competition, when the "iPad 2" is announced this Wednesday I think there are just a few key items that will almost guarantee its continued success. Read on to see what they are.
There has been a lot of speculation (as with all Apple products) about what the new version of the iPad will include. I have heard lots of different rumors related to new hardware and features, but I honestly don't think that many of them will have an impact on the continued success of the iPad.
The keys to success
These are the key things that I think the new iPad absolutely must have in order to continue it's reign as king of all tablets:
This is the single biggest key to the new iPad's success. As long as Apple can maintain its current price structure and release a Wi-Fi only model at $499 they will be in great shape. The iPad is already well established in people's minds as the de facto standard for tablets. When shopping for tablets it will be hard to justify a purchase from other manufacturers if they are all priced higher than the iPad. Thus far I have not heard of any competitive tablets that are priced below $600. Many people are probably willing to pay a little more to get the tried and true iPad name, but when it comes in at $100 LESS than the competition it almost becomes a no-brainer to go with the Apple product.
4G Wireless Data
This is a big one in my book. Even though lots and lots of Wi-Fi only iPads are sold there are still going to be people who want to compare the wireless data capabilities of the iPad to the competition. The competition is aiming for 4G, so the iPad needs to be there as well. Unless Apple has another iPad hardware refresh planned for later in the year to add 4G they really need to have it this week. If they wait until 2012 to introduce 4G wireless the competition may get ahead because for people who travel 4G vs. 3G looks pretty good on paper.
This is all but a certainty. When Apple introduced the iPhone 4 they also introduced FaceTime video chat. FaceTime is now also available on the MacBook and iMac product lines, leaving the iPad as the only integrated screen device that Apple sells without a built-in camera. At the very least a front-facing camera for use with chat is needed. My hope is that Apple takes things a step further and also includes a rear-facing higher resolution camera similar to the setup used on the iPhone 4. There are quite a few iOS apps that make use of the iPhone's camera. These same apps would also work great on the iPad.
That's it. I think all it takes are those three things to virtually ensure that the iPad remains number one in the tablet world. Just throw in 4G data and a camera or two at the same price and people will be happy to pass over all those other tablets and continue to buy the iPad in droves.
Nice to have items
There are a few other things that would be nice to see in a new iPad, but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see them and I don't think they will really have any effect on people's purchasing decision. The nice to have, but optional, items are:
I think that a faster processor in general is pretty much a given for any new device, but to really match the competition on raw specifications the new iPad should include the words "dual-core". Even if no apps use the extra power some people will feel like they aren't getting their money's worth if other tablets are advertising dual-core processors and the iPad isn't. This is included in the nice to have section for a reason, as I don't think it's a deal-breaker, but dual-core seems to be the current trend so I can see Apple slipping it in just to be on par with everybody else.
Right now iOS for the iPad is still very similar to iOS on the iPhone. Apple made a few tweaks here and there but the OS really isn't taking advantage of the larger iPad screen. Any improvements to the notification system would be a welcome addition, as would a better method of multitasking and app switching.
The existing iPad display is pretty good as is. Would it benefit from the "retina" treatment? Sure. More pixels are always a welcome addition, but I don't think people will mind if the display looks exactly the same as the original iPad.
More Internal Storage
The existing iPad is offered in 16, 32, and 64GB sizes. Personally I always wonder what people keep on their iPad that requires 64GB of storage, but I'm sure there are some users who would love to have a 128GB option available as well.
SD Card Slot
An SD card slot could be used for uploading images from a digital camera and also for just expanding the storage capacity of the iPad. Apple already makes a camera connection kit that allows you to transfer images from your camera or memory card to the iPad so that wouldn't be an entirely new feature except for no longer needing a separate adapter. Adding extra storage via SD cards would be nice, but again I have to wonder how much space is really needed on an iPad when 64GB internal storage is already available on the first-gen iPad.
Multiple Wireless Carrier Support
The original iPad offers 3G wireless service through AT&T in the United States. Service through T-Mobile is also possible, but not at 3G speeds due to frequency differences between the carriers. It would be great to see an iPad that could support high-speed data on multiple carriers, especially if Apple can pull off a dual mode GSM/CDMA model that would allow access on AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.
Which items from my list will make it into the product? We'll know for sure on Wednesday. Stay tuned!