We’ll find out in a few weeks how many it sold this summer, but in its first quarter of sales, Apple’s iPad business generated more revenue than its iPod business — and half as much as the Mac.
But we expect a new, improved iPad by early next year. (Perhaps called the “iPad 2?”) And maybe even a couple of new iPads.
We don’t think Apple will make any huge conceptual changes — the current iPad works pretty well. But the 2011 iPads will almost certainly include more features, a different case design, and faster guts.
We’ve taken the liberty of making some mockups to give you an idea of what it might look like. To be clear, these are illustrations based on speculation — not leaked photos.
Big picture, we don't expect any major structural changes. The beauty of the iPad is that it's just a big screen.
The higher-resolution 'retina' display debuted this summer on Apple's iPhone 4, and is now part of the iPod touch, too. It's so good -- especially for reading -- that it makes us want to use our iPhone 4 instead of our iPad sometimes.
We expect Apple's next iPad to include a 'retina' display, with four times the pixel density of the current iPad. This will make reading websites and e-books a dream, and could make hi-def games and movies look even better.
Apple knows that if its FaceTime video chat service is going to take off, it needs as strong a network as possible. That means including it on all of its portable devices going forward.
And we fully expect the next iPad to have a front-facing camera and FaceTime support. It will be especially compelling on the large screen.
What about a rear-facing camera? It's possible, and Apple may include to have the same features as it has on the iPhone and iPod touch, and competing tablets. But it wouldn't be a dealbreaker if Apple left this off.
The newest tablets out there -- Samsung Galaxy Tab, RIM BlackBerry PlayBook -- seem to be converging on 7-inch screen size. And it's been rumoured that Apple will also have a 7-inch iPad at some point.
This is not a bad idea. The iPad's 10-inch screen makes it very useful, and clearly sets it apart from smartphones and laptops, which was Apple's big goal for the debut iPad. But many would likely appreciate an iPad that is lighter, more portable, and can be held more easily in one hand. Something Kindle-sized is certainly a possibility.
As Daring Fireball's John Gruber notes, the question then becomes, is the 7-inch iPad the only iPad? Or one member of an iPad family?
The next iPad will almost certainly be thinner. The existing one feels pretty hollow, so we think Apple could save some space on the inside and make a thinner iPad.
RIM promises that its BlackBerry PlayBook will be 10 mm thin, or roughly 1/3 thinner than the iPad. Samsung's Galaxy Tab is a hair thinner than the iPad, too.
We anticipate a thinner metal frame surrounding the iPad, similar to that on the iPhone 4. It may also include the external antenna technology that Apple introduced with the iPhone 4 -- ideally, with any of the issues fixed that caused the 'Antennagate' problem.
We anticipate the iPad's processor and video technology will get a speed boost in the next edition, especially to fuel the retina display, which packs a lot of pixels.
But perhaps more important would be more RAM, so that you could do things like keep multiple web tabs loaded at the same time.
The rumoured status of Apple's relationship with Verizon Wireless, the no. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, changes with the weather. But it would be smart for Apple to offer a 3G version of its tablet that's compatible with Verizon in the U.S., and other CDMA carriers worldwide. (Perhaps alongside a Verizon-flavored iPhone?
We don't think the 2011 iPad will be 4G compatible, because 4G won't be rolled out in enough places by then. But anything's possible. And it's a likely inclusion for the third iPad.
Apple's portable device lineup has a wide range of back materials. The iPad is a brushed aluminium. The iPhone 4 is glass. And the iPod touch is a shinier metal.
What will the next iPad use? The current one isn't as easy to hold on to as it could be -- a little on the slippery side. So a flat glass back like the iPhone 4 might be an improvement.
But that might also add weight to the device. And the curved back of the current iPad makes it thinner at the edges, giving it an overall sleeker look and feel. So perhaps Apple will leave this alone.
Less likely, plastic, like the iPhone 3G used. Would probably feel too cheap.
Apple's current iPad will get the iOS 4.2 software update later this year, which would obviously ship on next year's iPad, too.
But what's in store for the next iPad and iOS 4.3 or 4.4? Maybe the newsstand that Apple is reportedly developing with publishers? FaceTime is an obvious inclusion.
The iPad is a fashion statement. So how about a full spectrum of coloured iPads?
Of course, Apple is still having enough problems just offering the iPhone 4 in white. Despite being announced in June, the white iPhone 4 is still nowhere to be seen.
With some impressive media apps in the App Store -- ranging from Wired to Flipboard -- it seems inevitable that Apple will create an iPad-specific program for its iAds advertising business.
This may take a bit longer -- iAds are stil slowly rolling out for the iPhone -- but it's possible it could be available by 2011.