Well, it’s finally here. Later today Apple is widely expected to announce an update to the best-selling iPad at an event in San Francisco. The whole thing kicks off at about 6pm UK time, and numerous sites will be liveblogging the event; my usual ones of choice are MacRumors, Engadget or TUAW. Recently Apple has also provided a live video stream of their events; it is not known if they are planning one this time around but they have a habit of announcing the stream at the last minute.
So, what can we expect from this launch? Many rumours have been thrown around regarding the iPad 2 and what else might be announced at the event. I did a rumour roundup a little while ago, but as we approach zero hour rumours usually increase in quantity and accuracy, as Apple inevitably have to let more people in on the secret. So, let’s take a look at what we might expect to see.
Updated iPad hardware
It goes without saying there’ll be updates to the hardware. The current favourites are a thinner, sleeker design, dual core processor, dual core graphics, front and back cameras more akin to the iPod Touch than the iPhone (ie 720p video, but nothing like 5MP photos), improved speaker, ‘world’ version compatible with both CDMA and GSM, and additional hardware that saw its debut in the iPhone 4 such as a gyroscope. Rumours of a high res ‘Retina’ display have persisted but are unlikely to be true.
Several rumours over the last month or so have pegged today’s iPad announcement as more of an ‘incremental’ release, with the massive change coming later in the year. Hopefully we will still see the improved internals listed above, even if they are in an only slightly upgrades shell.
We are also likely to see the iPad 2 hitting the shelves quite soon after the announcement, as supplies of the original iPad are already drying up.
We are also quite likely to see iOS 4.3 made available at today’s event. It’s ben rumoured to drop for almost a month now, so today is likely the day they have been waiting for (it is always possible the iPad 2 will get 4.3 as an exclusive for a little while also).
We could also see a preview of iOS 5. This is 50/50 however, as usually Apple dedicates a whole event to this subject alone. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
Steve Jobs to make an appearance?
It has also been reported that Apple’s CEO could make an appearance at the event, despite being on medical leave. Nothing is decided, it seems, but it is definitely something that’s ‘on the table’. I can’t see Jobs making the effort for a ‘minor’ update, however, so this either casts doubt on this rumour, or lends credence to the fact the update won’t be that disappointing.
An increasing raft of evidence is also pointing to an update to the MobileMe service. Some rumours have pegged it as simply going free, but there are signs that a number of new features are set to be released over the coming year, such as ‘Find my Mac (akin to the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature), an online digital locker, ‘Find my friends’ and others, all expected to make use of Apple’s new data centre. I’m sure we’ll at least hear something about MobileMe today.