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Day March 7, 2012

Apple event predictions

Apple is holding one of its annual media events today at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and everyone with a pulse knows what Apple will unveil at this one — the next iPad.

Think about that for a second. We all know what’s coming later today, and yet anyone with even a hint of technophilia is salivating for Apple’s latest delight like Pavlovian dogs. That’s partly because Apple has trained us well, but mostly because Apple lets us know precisely what it wants us to know and nothing more, making that “something we really have to see and touch” all the more compelling.

It’s also this dosed flow of information that makes speculating upon Apple’s next move so intriguing, and it’s in that spirit that I take a gander at divining the specifics of today’s event.

A new iPad is a given, though the official moniker (3? 2S? HD?) is not. Same price, same capacity, and same form factor, though likely 1mm thicker to accommodate for some heavily revamped internals. Available for preorder this Friday. In stores a week later.

The most prominent feature? Double the resolution/quadruple the pixels — and, yeah, that’s a Retina display whether you’re a marketing guru or a mathematician.

An improved processor is a no-brainer — likely a dual-core A5X but possibly a quad-core A6 (each individual core being an ARM Cortex A9, but if it’s dual-core, possibly two A15’s — confused yet?). Ultimately, given the new display and Apple’s penchant to subordinate specs to user experience, I’d expect a much greater focus on substantially improving the GPU than the CPU. A bump to 1GB RAM is all but guaranteed.

A bigger battery, better cameras (as much as 3MP front, 8MP back), and LTE have all been rumored, but I’m only betting big on the first one. I still don’t see much value in a good camera module on the back of a tablet (OCR perhaps?), but with Apple’s recent push into photography coupled with that beautiful display, I suppose it’s one of the few times they’ll chase specs. As for LTE, as much as I appreciate the speed, I still don’t think it’s widespread enough and sufficiently power efficient, but I definitely expect it debuting in an iPad before we see it on iPhone.

My pie-in-the-sky prediction:  localized haptics using piezoelectric actuators — Apple is going to make the new iPad tactile. Don’t see the home button going away without such technology — and even so, it’s safe to say it’ll be right where you’d expect it this afternoon. Not as sure about the dock connector, though.

As for software, it’ll probably run iOS 5.1 at release with Siri a safe bet assuming Audience’s new chip supporting far-field speech is ready. I’m sure we’ll probably see an epic game from Epic Games with face-melting graphics. I’m also betting on a version of iPhoto — or even Aperture — for iPad. It’s so obviously the one piece of Apple software still missing from it’s slate. Finally, I’m going out on a limb and saying Microsoft will release Office for iPad later today. I’m still unsure whether they’ll actually be on hand to show off their creation at the event itself (I’m guessing not), but it wouldn’t surprise me.

A new Smart Case, like the Smart Cover, is likely. A stylus is not.

Oh, and one more thing. Meet the new Apple TV — as in the set-top box, not an actual television. With it, support for 1080p streaming and full HD content in iTunes. I’d also expect the new Apple TV to be more like a console, supporting apps and games via AirPlay — an iBox, if you will. It’ll be the new must-have accessory for every Apple device.