The rumour mills are churning with news of the next-generation iPad, with some websites suggesting (wrongly, I think) that it could even appear before Christmas. Next year sounds a more likely time for an upgrade, and Taiwan’s DigiTimes has reported that:
“Component suppliers including touch panel and reinforced glass suppliers for Apple’s iPad are completing validation with Apple for the second-generation 9.7-inch iPad, according to Taiwan-based component suppliers. Apple is expected to launch the second-generation iPad in the first-quarter of 2011, the suppliers noted.”
One defect with the original iPad is that Apple pushed it out without a forward-facing camera to support the FaceTime video chatting service that it was just about to introduce in the iPhone 4. In fact, as teardowns noted, the iPad already had a space for the webcam, so it might be that Apple originally intended to ship it with a camera. If not, it clearly prepared for the idea.
A generous soul might conclude that Apple simply couldn’t get the iPad finished in time, and didn’t want to delay the urgently-needed delivery of its new toy. A more cynical person might note that leaving out the camera would add more cash to Apple’s vast cashpile. After all, people happy to buy the first version without a camera would be even happier to buy the second version that included one. (Well, this approach worked for iPods.)
Since the original iPad has another major defect – inability to support multiple users with separate log-ins – users could even justify buying multiple iPads for different family members.
Meanwhile those in not such a hurry could wait until yet another iPad defect kicks in. When the sealed-in battery in an Apple product starts losing the ability to hold a charge, that can provide a good excuse to buy a new one.
In other words, skipping the obvious camera was a win-win-win for Apple.
Unwarranted cynicism aside, a new version of the iPad would also enable Apple to fix some of the original iPad’s other defects. These include the limited memory, lack of support for multi-tasking, lack of an SD card slot, lack of a USB port, lack of video out, and inability to work with the many millions of web sites that use Adobe Flash. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Apple to fix the last one.
Another defect that we can be sure will not be fixed is the use of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) software that has made the iPad a target for the Defective By Design organisation. DBD says:
This past year, we have seen how human rights and democracy protestors can have the technology they use turned against them. By making a computer where every application is under total, centralized control, Apple is endangering freedom to increase profits. Apple can say they will not abuse this power, but their record of App Store rejections and removals gives us no reason to trust them. The iPad's unprecedented use of DRM to control all capabilities of a general purpose computer is a dangerous step backward for computing and for media distribution. We demand that Apple remove all DRM from its devices.
Of course, this isn’t correct. The iPad is not a “general purpose computer” and iPad buyers have no rights in the matter, unless they go for an aptly-named “jailbreak”. It’s a “special purpose computer”, the special purpose being to make vast profits for Apple. Which is what capitalism requires, of course. The trick is to make people think different.