I was talking to a tech guy this morning about my new iPad 2 and he asked the same questions everyone asks: "What d'ya think of it? What's cool about it compared to the original iPad?" I have my stock answers, about it being slimmer, lighter and faster, the addition of the camera, but it got me thinking about something I've been chewing on for a while: with a device like the iPad, what's next?
There are rumor sites that suggest that the now-mythical iPad 3 will have a faster processor, a "retina" display or other higher resolution screen and a higher resolution camera. Maybe a built-in SD Card reader or USB port. Maybe a second interface plug so that the device could be docked in landscape orientation, rather than just portrait.
Better, faster, stronger, lighter, thinner, but there are logical endpoints to these trends. A device that's the thickness of a sheet of paper can't have a connector and becomes more susceptible to damage in daily use. Lighter is always good, but have you held an iPad 2? Short of zero gravity, it's about as light as a device with its capabilities can get. Faster? It's the network connection that feels like it slows my iPad 2 down now, not the processor.
I'm not so much concerned about the individual features, however, as I am thinking about how there are products that are so good that they create a virtual end point in their market segment. Apple has already done that once with the amazingly successful iPod: the new Nano is pretty and slick, but there's nothing compelling about it to cause people who own the previous generation Nano (which is more capable, but a physically larger device) to spring for the upgrade.
I surmise that we're getting there with tablets too, as demonstrated by the iPad 2. The fact is that the new iPad is definitely cooler than the old one, but in an incremental sense, there's nothing new or revolutionary about it. So if in 10 months Apple releases an iPad 3 with a higher res camera, retina screen and second interface, I don't know that I'd upgrade. I mean, my iPad 2 has 64GB so there's plenty of space for what I want to carry with me (mostly movies and music) and the App Store is a thriving ecosystem already, so I don't see amazing upgrades there, software that'll only be available for an iPad 3.
Maybe I'm becoming blasé about these gadgets because of the ever-diminishing stream of iPad help questions I receive on my tech support blog and maybe there are things Apple could introduce in a new iPad 3 that will blow my socks off and cause me to queue up for the hardware upgrade. But somehow, I'm skeptical.