The latest rumors come from DigiTimes, which is reporting that component suppliers, including touch panel reinforced glass suppliers for Apple's iPad, are nearing the end of the validation stage for a second generation of 9.7-inch iPads. Those chatty suppliers, who always seem to like to talk about upcoming products, say the second-gen iPad, or iPad 2 as we'll refer to it, will start shipping in the first quarter of 2011.
Earlier this week, however, there was plenty of talk that Apple wants the iPad 2 on store shelves in time for the holiday shopping season. Citing "a person with proven knowledge of Apple's future product plans," Apple Insider says there's a huge internal push to make that happen. If it does, it would represent a deviation in Apple's normal product refresh cycle, at least historically speaking. It might also piss off first-gen iPad owners, some of which just recently picked up Apple's magical tablet, only to find that it could be obsolete (or at least a whole lot cheaper) within the next couple of months.
That's the position Apple put itself in by following its unofficial planned obsolescence strategy. The only reason to omit a USB port, HDMI port, microSD card slot, built-in camera, and other goodies is so that there would be sufficient demand for a second-gen product that does include some or all of those pieces. But with a spate of competitive models on the horizon, Apple now has to choose whether to rush the iPad 2 out to market ahead of schedule, or follow its normal refresh cycle and hope none of the competition hits a homerun with a winning design.
Apple's predicament notwithstanding, what exactly will the iPad 2 bring to the table? Officially, nobody knows. Apple obviously hasn't begun talking about its second-gen tablet, but the rumor mill has. From what we're hearing, the iPad 2 will incorporate at least one built-in camera with FaceTime support, a feature that's present on both the iPhone 4 and recently refreshed iPod touch devices.
Keeping in mind that this is all speculation, the next iPad might also turn to OLED for its display, though the current IPS panel does a stellar job already and we're not convinced Apple will change things up a whole lot here. You can probably expect a tighter screen resolution, but a new panel type altogether seems unlikely, particularly if looking to rush the release. More likely is that Apple will release a smaller version; there's talk that a 7-inch iPad is in the works.
The next iPad will almost assuredly come with more RAM, probably doubling up from 256MB to 512MB. This will help with both multitasking -- when it arrives -- as well as gaming. And if we had to guess, we'd say it will also come with a faster single-core processor, but still no love for dual-core. Everything else is a crap-shoot, from whether or not Apple will include USB and HDMI connectivity, or a microSD card slot. The only thing we can really say with any certainty is that it won't support Adobe's Flash platform.
Do you think Apple should push for a holiday release, or are the spate of competitive tablet announcements much ado about nothing? What would you like to see included on the iPad 2?