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The iPad 2: Should You Wait?

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With its new smash hit, the iPad, Apple has single-handedly established a new, fast-growing category of computers. So the next version of the iPad — called “iPad 2” in the press — is getting more attention than all the new, competing devices put together. Bud Smith loves the iPad so much he wrote Sams Teach Yourself iPad in 10 Minutes and the upcoming Using the Apple iPad. In this article, Bud explains why “size matters” so much in tablet computers and highlights the key features we may see in the iPad 2 this spring.
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The iPad has been amazingly successful. Launched just last April, it sold 1 million units in its first month. Through the end of 2010, sales have accelerated to an estimated 15 million units worldwide. Industry analysts are expecting sales to double again in 2011, to nearly 30 million units sold in one year – without assuming any major changes in the device. See Figure 1.

Figure 1 The iPad

With early results so good, and competitive pressure finally rising, there’s feverish speculation about the “iPad 2”—the working name that the press uses for the next version of the iPad. One online article effectively captured the level of interest and excitement, with the headline, Must-have iPad 2 features the iPad 2 must have!.

The iPad 2 is expected to arrive around April 1, 2011, following Apple’s iPhone tradition of bringing out new device versions one year apart. Which leaves potential buyers with the question: Should I jump in now, or wait for the anticipated new version?

In this article, I’ll take a look at the speculation, and at Apple history that might give us some guidance as to what new features and changes we really should expect to see. I’ll also mention some possibilities that seem more likely to either be farther off in the future, or not that likely to happen in the next few years, if ever.

iPad Off to a Roaring Start

The iPad was severely questioned by some pundits when it came out. The new device was seen as a clumsy fit, an attempt to squeeze a new “form factor”, as the industry calls it, into a narrow gap between smartphones, such as the iPhone, and laptop computers, such as the MacBook line.

It seems that users are very happy to have the iPad, though. It’s replacing laptops for casual trips outside the home, and even on short business trips. Kids love iPads; columnist David Pogue joked that the easiest way to start a war was to plop down a single iPad for his three children to fight over. A growing number of schools are considering how to use the iPad for instruction.

Competition is heating up—though it’s taking longer than people might have expected. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has a screen that’s only 7” across compared to the iPad’s 9.5” (see Figure 2). The Tab can be held in one (fairly large) hand, whereas the iPad needs to be rested on a lap, a table, or a desk, or held in two hands.

Figure 2 The Samsung Galaxy Tab

The Tab came out six months after the iPad, and is off to a strong start. It’s estimated to have sold 1 million units in its first two months, half the starting speed of iPad sales. Given that it had much less drama around its introduction, this is a respectable result.

The Tab runs Android, just like smartphones such as the Droid. Many more Android-based tablets are expected in the coming months – in a variety of shapes and sizes, and with a wide variety of features. It’s like the competition between the iPhone and Android-based smartphones all over again; the only difference is, the iPad, being almost entirely new in its shape and size, is perhaps even more innovative than the first iPhone was.

Apple is seen as needing to respond to the competition—which is a bit ironic, as there isn’t really any direct competition yet. (Most reviews see the Tab and the iPad as meeting fairly separate sets of needs, because of the difference in screen sizes and, therefore, in manageability.) The challenge for Apple is really to solidify its early lead, so no competing device can easily peel away millions of potential iPad customers in its first months out of the gate.

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