Apple has planned a big media event for Wednesday, at which time it's expected to show the new iPad 3. In preparation, rumors about the event are zipping around the Internet.
Many observers are assuming the new version of the popular iPad will be called the iPad 3, although it's possible that Apple may consider the advances not sufficient to indicate a full generational increase -- as they did with the iPhone 4S. On the other hand, the iPad 2 launched about a year ago, so a 3 would make sense.
But, instead of iPad 3, the new product might be dubbed the iPad HD, since the expectation is that there will be a big bump up in screen resolution. The most common rumor is that the 9.7-inch tablet will increase from 1024x768 pixels to 2048x1536.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, noted that Apple's invitation to the event shows an image of the screen zoomed in, "and you can't see any pixel structure," as you would if the same zoomed image used the iPad 2's screen.
He predicted that Apple could accompany a higher-resolution iPad with a "greater focus on productivity," such as an announcement by Microsoft that it would release an iOS version of Office, or Apple unveiling new versions of its productivity apps, such as Pages and Numbers.
If productivity does become more emphasized for the iPad, it could bode well for Microsoft's Windows 8, whose innovative Metro interface is touch-optimized for tablets and PCs. It could also mean a new level of competition from the iPad. A key question is whether Windows 8 users will use productivity tools via a touch-centered interface, and, assuming they will, Apple may be preparing to up its game in that area.
A faster processor is expected, as is common these days in upgrades. The suggested specs point to a souped-up version of the current dual-core A5, although some iOS 5.1 preview code has pointed to a quad-core A6.
A bump up in the front and/or rear cameras is expected, especially since many smartphones have higher-resolution cameras than the relatively expensive iPad.
Greengart, among others, said support for 4G/LTE on the iPad is to be expected, perhaps in the product unveiled this week. "Apple's more likely to experiment with LTE in a larger format device, such as the iPad," he said, since the larger format offers "a little more wiggle room for battery life issues" and for additional hardware than, say, a phone.
Many users are hoping that the voice-recognizing intelligent agent, Siri, will make its appearance on the new iPad. Greengart said Apple was likely to include Siri throughout its product line at some point, but that, right now, he wondered "if Apple has the service capacity to support Siri from iPad users."
Smaller iPad, Price
Greengart said that he often gets a "Siri's busy" message when he tries to use the voice agent on his 4S. Siri uses an extensive, cloud-based back end to support its intelligent processing.
There have also been reports that a 7.85-inch iPad smaller sibling is in the works, which would allow Apple to compete with the smaller tablets and larger smartphones/e-readers that have emerged. But the smaller device may not be available until third quarter, according to most reports.
All of these potential upgrades could also lead to an increase in price. Greengart said he expected that a higher-resolution version would have a higher price tag, in which case the iPad 2 might drop by $100 or so.