Our first question: Who’s going to lead the presentation?
Will CEO Steve Jobs, who is technically on day-to-day medical leave?
Or will his lieutenants, like COO Tim Cook, marketing boss Phil Schiller, and iOS software chief Scott Forstall?
Jobs was well enough to attend a dinner last week with President Obama and other tech CEOs.
Does he have enough energy to lead a big keynote? Will he say anything about his condition? Will he show up at all?
This seems likely. The iPad's 10-inch screen is a good middle ground between a smartphone and a laptop.
But we assume the iPad 2 will be thinner. And the case itself may be made out of different materials.
Apple has already started selling the iPad at Verizon Wireless, bundled with a mi-fi wireless hotspot, and the iPhone 4 is now available in a Verizon version.
Given that the companies now have an official relationship, it makes sense that the iPad 2 could ship in a Verizon-compatible edition. It may even be one version of the iPad 2 that works on both CDMA (Verizon) and GSM (AT&T, etc.) networks, a precursor to this year's iPhone, which is expected to have that capability.
Other questions: Will the iPad 2 support 4G LTE networks, like Motorola's Xoom tablet will eventually? Or will Apple wait until later this year or next year to do that?
And: Will Apple let carriers subsidise the price of the iPad, if someone signs a 2-year data contract?
We assume the iPad 2 will cost the same $499 entry price as the iPad. (Barring any carrier subsidies.)
But if Apple can, it makes sense to knock the price of the original iPad down by $100 or $150, using it to draw people into the store, the way the $99 iPhone does. (Many of those people will actually end up buying the more expensive iPad 2.)
The future of the iPad is having three or four of them sitting around the house and office. So the more affordable Apple can make them, the faster that future can be realised.
The consensus now is that Apple will ship a new iPad with the same resolution as today's iPad.
In the future, we think Apple would love to ship an iPad with a higher resolution 'retina' display. But that might not happen until later this year or maybe next year.
This is one of the most obvious, definite additions to the iPad 2. We fully expect a front-facing camera on the new iPad.
And it looks like there will also be a camera on the back, too, to keep consistent with the iOS lineup.
Steve Jobs has slammed the 7-inch screen as being too small, and said that Apple thinks the 10-inch size is the minimum to create great tablet apps. Android tablets, which started at 7 inches, are also getting bigger now.
So, not expecting a smaller iPad now. Maybe a bigger one someday?
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.
Apple has a habit of making things unbelievably thin, like the original iPhone, and the iPhone 4, and the new MacBook Air. So look for Apple to really wow people here.
We anticipate the iPad's processor and video technology will get a speed boost in the next edition. But perhaps more important would be more RAM, so that you could do things like keep multiple web tabs loaded at the same time.
Expect Apple to say something like, 'the iPad 2 is twice as fast.'
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. This would probably feel too cheap.
Also: How about colours?
The iPad finally has iOS 4.2.
But what's in store for the next iPad and iOS 4.3 or 5? FaceTime is an obvious inclusion. What else?
Maybe a huge upgrade to Apple's Ping service, which makes it more of a social network -- with its own app -- for sharing everything, including apps and photos?
Earlier this month, Daring Fireball writer John Gruber hinted that Apple could launch yet another iPad later this year, and eventually move the iPad to a fall release schedule. Perhaps an iPad Pro or something like that -- something that complements the existing iPad lineup, and doesn't replace anything.
It certainly makes sense to move the iPad to a fall schedule, so we wouldn't rule it out. Perhaps more colours, or a higher resolution screen, or 4G LTE support.
But we don't expect Apple to pre-announce anything now.
Jobs is technically on day-to-day medical leave. But he was well enough to attend dinner with President Obama last week.
Does he have enough energy to lead a big keynote? Will he just say hello and hand over the reins to COO Tim Cook, marketing boss Phil Schiller, and iOS software chief Scott Forstall? Or will he not show up at all?
iAds for the iPad have already debuted. Will they get a mention during the announcement? Will this be a big push this year for Apple?
We expect something around early April, like last year. Apple doesn't seem to have included the iPad 2 in its March quarter guidance, so it will probably start shipping in the June quarter.
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