If you're reading this on an iPad 2, get ready to feel obsolete.
March 7 is the day we'll find out which of the never-ending rumors about the next Apple tablet are true. Apple has sent out invitations to reporters for an iPad-related event that day in San Francisco.
The invitation features a finger on an iPad touchscreen, selecting the calendar feature with that date. "We have something you really have to see," it reads. "And touch." Some iPad watchers say the screen resolution looks richer than those current iPad models. The big event will be at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Novellus Theater, the venue for previous Apple launches, at 10 a.m.
Further fueling speculation of a new iPad, retailer Best Buy has lowered the price of the iPad 2 by $50.
The first iPad was released after months of fanfare and speculation in January 2010, followed by the iPad 2 last March. The first redesign featured a slimmer and lighter body with dual cameras and a faster processor.
So what can Apple do for the next encore? Rumors and supposed tips have suggested that there will be more than one version, offering two screen sizes, priced to take on more affordable competitors. Others say the newbie will have a better screen resolution, a multi-core processor and/or high-speed, long-term evolution data compatibility.
"At this point, I'm leaning toward the notion of incremental improvement over revolutionary redesign," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "A significantly higher resolution display could be visually stunning, and improved cameras would enhance a number of multimedia functions. Moving up to a higher performing processor seems likely, too, as it could improve any number of applications or enable new functions."
Moving beyond the A5 dual-core 1-GHz processor would put the iPad in line with new tablets such as the Asus Transformer Prime, sporting the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor.
Price Is Key
But King said one of the most important factors for Apple to keep up the momentum of its top-selling tablet won't be found in the hardware, but on the box, and in iTunes. Price matters, and so does content.
"At this point, Amazon's Kindle Fire seems to be the biggest impediment to Apple's world domination in tablets," he said. "Amazon's aggressive pricing has certainly contributed to this but the company's leveraging of its publishing and multimedia partnerships has also been very adroit."
With more than $80 billion on hand, Apple could easily afford to lower the price of the next tablet to take on Amazon, he noted.
"But a likelier scenario would be going the 'Cadillac' route -- delivering higher quality features that translate into a better user-experience and preserve the iPad's premium pricing, while reinforcing the notion of the Kindle Fire as a 'budget' device," King said.