Apple iPad 2: What We're Expecting

George Harrison famously said, "I think people who can truly live a life in music are telling the world, 'You can have my love, you can have my smiles. Forget the bad parts, you don't need them. Just take the music, the goodness, because it's the very best, and it's the part I give.'" Replace music creation with product development and in a sense this could also describe Apple [AAPL] CEO Steve Jobs, who makes his personal expression in the products he helps create.

Apple's approach to product design sets it apart. The focus isn't just marketshare and profit, though its margins show it knows how to make both. Apple's product design aims are more akin to artistic expression. It makes money, sure, but it does so through the vehicle of delivering great products. A motivation so many large corporations just can't seem to emulate.

ABOVE: Steve Jobs tells us how phone phreaking taught him the value of ideas]

Looking to the iPad 2.0 I've seen reports claiming the next Apple tablet will be an incremental upgrade, rather than a 'revolutionary' re-work. But with a grip on 93 percent of the tablet market and Mac sales blazing while the PC industry fades, perhaps the revolution in technology already happened.

Talking 'Bout a Revolution

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

In any case, perhaps it is time to stop using the word 'revolution' in association with consumer electronics. Look to current events around the Mediterranean basin for confirmation that 'revolution' at times demands that unarmed protesters stand up for what they believe in while being shot at by unfriendly military forces using anti-aircraft guns. I'm minded to think it might be time to offer the word 'revolution' the respect it deserves.

Apple is ascendant. It owns the tablet industry. It is the most profitable company in the smartphone business, and Mac sales grew 23.5 percent year-on-year in December, according to IDC. Overall the PC market grew just 3.4 percent. Apple's focus on product design as artistic expression seems to have its fans.

With nothing to fear bar the vapor-ware announced at CES, the company may have elected to keep its powder dry, introducing feature upgrades in iPad, while holding major improvements back for another release at a later juncture.

Place Your Bets

With this in mind, what can we look forward to on March 2? Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to place your bets:

Listening to the chatter emanating from the increasingly commodified Mac Web we know to expect a lighter, faster tablet with better graphics, more memory, FaceTime cameras and (potentially) support for CDMA as well as GSM-based 3G networks.

The processor will be the new A5 chip, says Engadget (where did I hear that before?). The new iPad won't carry an SD card reader, which really shouldn't surprise anyone. Well, it is no surprise to me.

RAM climbs to 512MB but we won't see a Retina Display. We might see Thunderbolt I/O. Then again, we might not -- the lavish dollops of thermal paste inside the new MacBook Pros suggest Thunderbolt may run a little hot.

Apple may also reveal a little more about its plans for cloud-based music services.

MobileMe Change?

There's some hope that Apple may finally make MobileMe the free service it should be. This speculation shot up a notch or two yesterday when the company removed MobileMe from sale through retail channels. Jim Dalyrmple doesn't expect big change yet. Me? I wouldn't be at all surprised to see MobileMe sold exclusively via the Mac App Store.

Apple will also begin to drip-feed information about iOS 5. This will be interesting. You can anticipate improved integration between it and OS X and the beginning of more social image sharing services.

Previously on the Mac Web we've heard tell of more location-based and social features within iOS 5. I'm expecting improvements in the capabilities of AirPlay and I"m hoping we'll see moves toward wireless sync and push App upgrades.

If OS X is Lion, Which Cat is iOS?

I don't expect Apple to discuss RFID features too much at next week's event -- these won't be covered until Apple introduces the next-gen iPhone later in the year.

It isn't hard to imagine just how fortunate the ability to use an iPhone or iPad as a payment terminal will prove to be in future. Any move to create payment systems accessible by consumers who may face difficulties establishing conventional US bank accounts will likely prove popular. Recent data claims tablets are extremely popular among US immigrants, with the iPad being the tablet of choice in most cases.

As Apple explains iOS 5 I'll be asking myself just how well any newly-disclosed abilities will translate into Mac features. This is because part of Apple's OS development focus now will be to raise the level of integration between its Mac and iOS products. Oh, and do enjoy the ancient Apple marketing video below.

What do you expect to learn next week? Let me know in comments below. I'd also very much like to invite you to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when I post new reports here first on Computerworld.

This story, "Apple iPad 2: What We're Expecting" was originally published by Computerworld.

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