Apple said earlier this week that it will hold an event on March 2 in San Francisco, with all signs pointing to an iPad 2 unveiling. This lit up the blogosphere with predictions about what might be in the iPad 2, whether or not Steve Jobs will be presenting, and, of course, what might be the "one more thing" Apple is famous for at these events.
Consensus has the iPad 2 sporting at least a front-facing camera, more memory, and a thinner and lighter body. There is a good chance of a rear-facing camera, more storage, a more powerful graphics processor, better speakers, and iPhone 4-like sensing capabilities such as gyroscope.
[ Are you considering the upcoming iPad 2 as your first iPad? Take our tour of 15 cool iPad apps that take advantage of the leisurely user experience. ]
What the iPad 2 won't have: Retina display. For technical reasons, Apple needs to double the iPad's current resolution in order to improve it. Apple has been working (and spending billions) with suppliers to do this—but a higher resolution won't be ready in time for the iPad 2.
"I think the iPad 2 is going to play catch up to the iPhone 4, with the exception of a higher resolution," Kyle Wiens of iFixit told CIO.com. He also would like the iPad 2 to have a multi-core chip for better multitasking. "They desperately need it. Multi-tasking on iOS is painful."
Whether or not Jobs will present the iPad 2 is anybody's guess, of course. But odds went up after Jobs, who is on medical leave, was healthy enough to show up at a dinner of Silicon Valley's tech titans and President Obama last week.
If Apple can keep the iPad 2 price on par with the original iPad (starting at $499) or even lower, this would take the wind out of the sales of the Motorola Xoom being launched today. The Xoom tablet and iPad rival costs $800 (or $600 with a two-year, $20-a-month Verizon data plan). It doesn't take much imagination to envision a smirking Jobs teeing up the iPad 2's unbeatable price tag on the heels of Xoom's launch.
So what will be the "one more thing" at next week's event?
Industry watchers speculated that Apple might hold the refresh of its MacBook Pro line for next week, but Apple made the announcement today. The machines come with new Intel processors, improved graphics cards, and a new "Thunderbolt" port for video and data.
Predictions are risky business in the world of Apple, but a tidbit from Apple's annual shareholder meeting this week offers a clue (or at least a possibility). Apple said its massive $1 billion North Carolina datacenter, wrought with delays since late last year when it was supposed to open, is expected to open this spring. The data center will support iTunes and MobileMe services.
Apple's "one more thing" might be that the long-awaited iTunes in the cloud is coming. If so, you'll be able to store libraries and backups in the cloud, stream music and video, save precious local storage space. More importantly, you're days of syncing to iTunes on the desktop would come to a happy end.