Everyone knows I'm a giant nerd. Today is no exception. Apple is expected to announce the next-generation iPad today. Last week, Apple sent out invitations to the press and tech elite to an event. The invitiation shows what is obviously an iPad, and the tagline is typically cryptic. In typical attention-to-detail fashion, the picture shows exactly what they want you too see. You see a bit of the dock, with a map icon, a calendar icon, and the a Keynote icon. All you need to know. Yerba Buena, March 7, you'll be seeing a Keynote presentaion. Everything else is left to the wild imagination of the internets.
And wild it is. There are rumors of the "iPad HD" as some are calling it, with the super-high resolution pixel-doubled (quadrupled?) Retina display. There are rumors of an upcoming 7" version to compete with the popular Kindle Fire. There are rumors of LTE data, different international versions, a haptic-feeback screen, and more.
Some of these will prove true, some will end up in John Gruber's Claim Chowder. Here's my take:
The Retina display is a given. Even the picture on the invitation shows a high-resolution screen. A 7" version is probably in the works, but we won't see it today. LTE data chips are in a ton of phones now, and could make their way into an iPad before iPhones for one reason: iPads have a GIANT battery. Android LTE phones have a change-your-battery-at-lunch lifespan, but the giant battery in an iPad could keep it running all day. That Retina display also gobbles juice, so add a bigger battery to my list.
The tea-leaf readers are getting more and more convincing on the haptic-feedback screen. Pocket Lint has reports that Senseg, a haptic-feedback touch screen manufacturer, has been working with "a certain company in Cupertino" and they won't make comments until "after the March Apple event". So, even if they aren't announcing it now, they are more than likely working on a future tablet with Apple.
Then, there's the invitiation. The iPhone 4S event's invitation read "Let's Talk iPhone". Then, they introduced Siri, the sometimes-maddening "assistant" that you talk to and talks back. Some are speculating that the "And touch" tagline refers to the haptic screen.
I'm inclined to agree, assuming the haptic layer of electro-magnetic mojo doesn't interfere with the clarity of the Retina screen.
I'm also expecting a new Apple TV that has 1080p streaming with AirPlay. There have been rumors of content deals happening to bring actual channels to the AppleTV, but I think it's a little too early. If Apple offers individual channels, including live news, for monthly streaming fees, I'd go all in and drop cable.
Let's not be mistaken, there will be software. You can't do a hardware-upgrade-only Keynote. There's nothing to show off. You can't see how clear a Retina display is on a computer monitor. There are not enough pixels on the computer or TV to do the Retina display justice. You can't demo extra memory. You can't demo "thin".
You can demo software. There will probably be the long line of high end software folks showing off things that show off the iPad. Gaming companies will be up there showing off the increased speed and bragging about high-resolution graphics. They will probably feature the new "Catalogs" section of the App Store, maybe with a haptic angle. "You can FEEL what that lacy underthing is like before you buy! And all in-app purchases will net Apple 30% of your panties." And then there is iPhoto.
Yep, that's my big software prediction/hope. Apple has brought the entire iWork suite of Numbers, Pages, and Keynote to the iPad. They have brought iLife in the form of iTunes, GarageBand and iMovie. The only thing left is a REAL photo app. The Photos app on the iPad is OK. It lets you make albums and do basic editing, but it should do so much more. I want Smart Albums, better tagging, iCloud album and tag syncing to Aperture on the desktop. I want to create calendars and cards in the app and order them for mom for Christmas. I want to edit more than redeye and cropping without third party apps.
It seems petty to complain about switching to Photoshop Touch or another photo editing app to fix color or apply a filter, but there's a reason I want it Apple-baked. iPhoto and Aperture use non-destructive editing. When I change a picture to black and white or crop something in Aperture or iPhoto, the app adds a meta-data file that explains the changes, but doesn't actually change the original file. I can revert to the original years later if I want, after hundreds of edits. None of the third-party apps can do this. If I add a temporarily-cool hipster-wanna-be make-my-photo-look-old-and-ragged filter to a picture of my neice, I may want to have a real copy later. Instead of two versions of the same picture in my camera roll, I can have dozens of versions inside one file in iPhoto. And all of these changes and edits should sync over iCloud.
So, if we're scoring, iPad 3/HD will have a Retina display, a 50/50 shot at a Haptic screen, 4G LTE available, a bigger battery, possibly a tad thicker to account for more battery/haptic screen/LTE radio. Apple will update iOS to 5.1, which recently hit Golden Master, and announce iPhoto for iPad. I'll update after the Keynote to see how I did. One question I still have: Will they allow online orders this time, or will I be waiting in line?
Oh, and Apple, as a personal favor to me, can you please fix the UI bulemia that is the Music App? Give me the sidebar and list back. Give me big buttons. I have a 10" screen with a 1/4" play button on it. Give me a consistant UI with colors other than light gray and dark gray.
Full Disclosure: All of the app links in this post are iTunes affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, or the Amazon sidebar on the left, I will get a little kickback to expand my Star Wars Pez dispenser collection.
So how did I do? Retina display? Check. No 7"? Check. LTE? Check. Haptic? Nope, but we didn't really expect that, did we? 1080 Apple TV? Check. Long, boring third party software demos? Check. Catalogs? Not mentioned. And my big personal win is iPhoto. Pretty psyched about that one.
iPhoto and iOS 5.1 is available today, and you can pre-order an iPad later this afternoon. They will ship on March 16.