And also some speculation.
The iPad 2 will be unveiled tomorrow. This is fact. Everything we've heard about the iPad 2 falls into one of three categories. Obvious, Wishful Thinking and Straight-Up Fantasy. Without further ado...
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Obvious: The iPad 2 will pack front-facing camera and (most likely) a rear-facing camera. We've seen early cases leak out with a rear camera. A thinner body and bump to 512 MB of RAM have also been leaked numerous times.
Earlier this week, a white iPad 2 frame leaked out. It revealed both the presence of a second color option, and a front-facing camera. We can also expect a processor boost- 1.2 GHz dual-core seems the most likely.
Wishful Thinking: Storage space could expand up to 128 GB, according to some analysts. This is one of those rumors based on what the iPad 2 "should" have, and not necessarily what Apple will decide it needs to have.
A few rumors (and some renders) point towards a microSD slot on the iPad 2. This rumor has fallen out of favor lately, so don't put too much stock in it. Lately, the buzz has centered more around the possibility of Intel's Thunderbolt port in the iPad 2. Since Apple has exclusivity with the technology for 2011, we may just see this rumor come true.
Last, we've got the recent rumors that Apple's seriously ill CEO Steve Jobs will be at the iPad 2 unveiling. This seems highly unlikely, but I would be ecstatic to be wrong.
Straight-Up Fantasy: First off, the retinal display. Ever since Apple shoved that term into the vernacular with the iPhone 5, people have speculated about what gadget will pack an ultra-high pixel display next. This rumor has popped up quite a few times. Unfortunately, the enormous processor drain and battery drain a retinal display would necessitate makes it extremely unlikely at this point.
We've also heard quite a few rumors that the iPad 2 will launch Verizon ready. While this is extremely likely, it is unlikely that we'll see an LTE iPad 2 this early in the game. Quite frankly, Verizon's network doesn't yet have the coverage to make it worthwhile for Apple. I may be wrong on this one, but it seems more Apple's style to wait until the technology has had more time to mature. And more time to reach a broader base of customers.
What is the Market?
Last year, if you wanted a tablet the iPad was the only game in town. Now we've got the Xoom, and a whole host of decent competition from Archos. The PlayBook will launch soon, as will the TouchPad and dozens of other high-quality slates. Apple is going to lose the niche users who, last year, had no option to buy the tablet they really wanted.
I expect Apple to push the iPad 2- and subsequent slates, as primary devices for people who don't really want or need a full-on desktop/laptop all the time. One of the new features in OS X Lion allows seamless remote desktop control. Why get off of your iPad to pull files or media from your Mac?
Apple has spent the last decade successfully courting people who 1. don't like technology and 2. need to use technology all the time. The iPad as a product represents a compromise. An attempt to deliver the primary functionality of a computer to people who don't understand them.
What About the Magic? Much like a magician in Bartertown, Apple trades on magic. The only credible rumors we have for the iPad 2 are a faster processor, more RAM, a thinner profile and cameras. While all of that is grand, none of that is "magic". There's got to be something- some hardware feature or new addition to iOS or new app, that Apple thinks will 'wow' us into buying.
The new dual-core A5 chip is a possibility. And I won't discount Thunderbolt either. But Apple may reach for 'magic' by focusing on two things none of their competitors have been able to match yet. Price, and battery life. If the iPad 2 can beat its predecessor in longevity AND power, while still running $499 for the low-end model, the Xoom et al will be in serious trouble.
Maybe that isn't flashy enough for the Cupertino-based company, but it strikes me as exactly the sort of 'magic' Steve Jobs built an empire on.