Only this morning, the iPad was declared one of the greatest innovations of 2010 by Time magazine. But we're already receiving reports that components for the iPad successor, let's call it 'iPad 2.0', have been selected and approved with production set to accelerate come February, suggesting the next-gen Apple [AAPL] tablet will ship in Q1. I've gathered my thoughts and this is what I think we might know about iPad 2.0, even as we head into an iOS Christmas.
It will be a global traveller
Sure, the iPad can handle 3G and Wi-Fi, two pretty much universal standards, but Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair expects Apple will introduce a "World iPad" based on one of Qualcomm's multimode CDMA-GSM chips.
He informs us Apple's reducing manufacture of 3G model iPads and says the company aims to sell 48 million iPads next year.
It will have cameras
We've heard reports of 5-megapixel CCDs being manufactured by Omnivision for the next-gen iPad. Rest assured, it will have cameras and will run Facetime.
This attempt at pre-designing a feature for the follow-up is typical Apple.
It wouldn't really have hurt to include this in v.1.
It will be thinner, it will be lighter
There are two reports circulating suggesting this.
Apple's recent move to license LiquidMetal technology, which combines strong corrosion-resistant metals like titanium with a process that makes the material molten, like plastic.
A report published today explains Apple's carbon fiber design patent, which would suggest a light but very strong carbon fiber frame. Carbon fiber is brittle, though -- so could Apple choose LiquidMetal to create a super-strong, super-light and super-thin frame?
That Wedge Partners report referred to above suggests it will be.
"We understand the new iPad is thinner than the existing model and is essentially made from one piece of metal with no pins needed...We understand it requires a new type of manufacturing process as a result, similar to the company's unibody approach seen in MacBooks," as reported by Digital Daily.
It will be faster
I stuck my neck out some time back to suggest Apple will develop a processor based on the potentially multi-core ARM Cortex A9 chip, which Apple may call the A5, as successor to this year's A4 chip which drives all iOS devices.
Speed won't stop there: expect better graphics support and double the memory (at least at the top end).
Capacity and other animals
I'm not sure we need this beefed-up just yet, but given AAPL's continued command of flash memory sales, by dint of it being the world's biggest flash customer, there's no reason not to anticipate a 128GB iPad -- though this would bite at the heels of the recently-introduced MacBook Air.
Ibiden, Tripod Technology and TTM Technologies have been named as the initial PCB suppliers (Digitimes).
I don't agree with Goldman Sachs who believe the new iPad will use mini USB, though upcoming European standardization may demand this.
The display will be higher-res
Apple will say with flourish something along the lines of:
"We love the iPhone 4. It is the most sophisticated smartphone out there. Our customers love the Retina Display. It's just beautiful. Now we've figured out how to make enough of these to put them in the iPad too. Isn't it magical?"
Given Apple is said to be testing ultra-thin glass-based touch panels, it is hard not to imagine the next-gen iPad will be even thinner than the existing model.
It will run Mac OS Apps
I've always had the notion that an iPad Pro would broaden Apple's tablet market, but Apple says touch for Macs will be via trackpads of various kinds.
The appearance of the Mac App Store will engender a huge increase in Mac apps, and many of these will be designed to use elements of touch.
You'll be surprised how similar the user experience of the Mac apps and their iPad equivalents will become over time, particularly within Lion.
There will eventually be a Mac OS X/ iOS convergence, but only where an evolution makes user-focused sense.
I don't expect a major iOS upgrade until June, when the iPhone 5 is likely to appear. OS focus for early next year will be on Mac OS X.
It will sell millions
Right now, Apple holds 95 percent of the tablet market. There's no danger it will lose this advantage. Around 80% of people planning to buy tablets intend to buy iPads, according to a recent ChangeWave survey.
Competitors will be challenged if they try to match Apple on features, design, technical specs or anything else.
And one more thing
They say that if you don't know your history you'll be destined to repeat it. Some Apple-watchers truly believe this, and yet they then choose to ignore what they know. Take the statement that "Apple doesn't really focus on price." Many believe this is true.
Not for the iPad.
Don't be surprised if Apple hasn't applied some ingenuity to its future iPad in order to see if it can't clip more dollars off the cost.
Apple knows this is a platform war, and it has no intention of repeating its history as evinced by the battle for desktop computing.
Apple knows its history.
I'm expecting ever-more aggressive prices as the iPad becomes an ever-more mass market device sold to millions.