The (sort of) mysterious tech giant sent out not-so-mysterious press invitations that feature an iCal March 2 date and the words "Come see what 2011 will be the year of." The iCal date is peeled back on the top right corner to reveal an iPad.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Apple thinks the second generation of its iPad -- the iPad 2 -- is what 2011 will "be the year of."
Here's what we know about the iPad 2:
It will have a camera (or maybe two)
People have been speculating about an iPad with a camera since the device debuted last year. In December, Chinese-made iPad 2 cases started showing up on the Internet -- some with rear-facing camera holes. The cases had a cut out on the bottom left, suggesting that perhaps the iPad 2 will have a rear-mounted speaker as well.
In late January, Mac Rumors discovered an iPad screenshot with three new standard app icons hidden in the developer release of iOS 4.3 Beta 2. The new icons were FaceTime, Camera, and PhotoBooth, suggesting that some sort of camera will be making an appearance on the iPad 2.
My take: The iPad 2 will have front- and rear-facing cameras, even though a rear-facing camera wouldn't make much sense.
It will have a better display
In January, we heard rumors of an improved dual-core graphics chip landing in the iPad 2 -- reportedly, to power a high-resolution (1,536 by 800 pixels) display. The rumors (reported by AppleInsider ) suggested that these specs would put 1080p HD video playback on the table.
Less than a week later, more iPad 2 screen rumors popped up. First, that the iPad 2 would have a screen resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels (thanks, Digitimes ), and then that it wouldn't. IDC research manager Tom Mainelli suggested that Digitimes' report got the resolution right, but the iPad version wrong -- the iPad 2 won't have a 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen, but the iPad 3 might. Later in February, we also saw some leaked photos from a Chinese repair shop that showed no retina display.
My take: I'm pretty sure the iPad 2 is going to have an improved screen and "better graphics," but 1080p video will only work in theory.
It will run on AT&T and Verizon
This rumor is kind of weak -- there's only one report from Digitimes -- but bear with me. According to the trade publication, Apple is working on both GSM- and CDMA-enabled versions of the iPad 2. The GSM versions will work on the current carrier AT&T (and, theoretically, on other GSM networks such as T-Mobile), while the CDMA versions will work on Verizon (and, theoretically, Sprint). It's also possible that the iPad 2 will have a triple-mode wireless chip that will allow it to work on both networks.
Currently, the only non-AT&T option for the iPad is Verizon's iPad/MiFi bundle.
My take: If there's a CDMA version of the iPad coming at us, it will be Verizon-specific.
It will be sexier
At least, I hope it will be. In January, iLounge showed us some pictures of what appears to be the shell of an iPad 2 spotted at CES 2011. The pictures show a slightly smaller, slightly thinner iPad with the words "iPad 2" and "128GB" on the back. Well, the fact that it says "iPad 2" on the back should be a pretty big hint that it's not a real iPad 2 (and it wasn't, it was a "realistic mockup"), but the iPad 2 is supposed to be slimmer, sexier, and have more storage.
Aside from a dual-core video chip, it's been hinted that the iPad will feature a multiple-core ARM Cortex A9 processor. Rumors also suggest that the iPad will have louder, wide-range speakers (remember, the purported "iPad 2 cases" do feature what looks like a cutout for a large speaker on the lower left corner).
My take: Apple's new iPad will be sexier than its predecessor, but this had better not up the price. With Motorola's $800 Xoom (which has a dual-core processor, two cameras, and an HD display) dropping soon, a $499 starting price will no doubt keep Apple way ahead in the tablet race.
It will be here on March 2
Oh, right, did I mention that? Tune in on March 2, when Apple will definitely be unveiling the iPad 2 (along with some other things, perhaps).