While the iPad has captivated Apple's audience in ways that only Apple products can, it's not a product I can recommend in its current configurations and at its current pricing structure. But complaints aside, it's clear that Apple's wonderful toy is pointing the way to a future where computing is simpler, more mobile, and more connected. Apple partisans claim that this means the iPad is a huge success, one that will seriously impede PC growth. But the truth, as always, is less extreme. Instead, both the iPad and the PC will evolve over time, with the iPad picking up additional functionality and capabilities while the PC adopts some of the nicer features of the iPad, including its superior battery life and simpler user interfaces. In this as-yet-unwritten future, the resulting devices will be far more like PCs than iPads, I think, and will in fact simply be PCs by any reasonable definition. But that's in the future.
In the meantime, millions of people have foolishly jumped on the iPad bandwagon too soon, adopting a device that is too expensive, too heavy, too big, and too limited. Those buyers will be supported by software updates for a few years at least, and that's just great. But what early adopters are going to miss out on are the more fundamental changes that Apple makes to new iPad hardware that's coming down the pike. And if Apple is truly serious about keeping its lead in the market for tablet-type computers, here are some of the changes it will need to make in time for the second generation iPad, now expected to hit sometime after the holidays.
The one major change Apple will institute in the existing iPad models is the price, which is far too high for a device that is essentially a large-screen iPod touch: It's far too expensive for the amount of storage provided with each device. Looking at the current lineup, the devices should start at $299 and go up from there. This would make them more competitive with the netbook-class computers with which they currently compete.
Lower prices are a given, but there is one aspect of the iPad product lineup that is uniquely un-Apple: There are just too many product versions. Apple currently sells 6 different iPads, three with Wi-Fi only and three with 3G wireless networking as well. Since Apple likely pays something like $6 for a 3G radio, my advice is to simplify the lineup to 2 or 3 models only, differentiated only by storage capacities. In today's product line, that would be a 32 GB version selling for $299 and a 64 GB version for $399. Simple.
The current iPad is too big and too heavy, and any refresh should use Amazon's Kindle as a guide: In fact, it should be the exact same size and weight as Amazon's device if possible. Granted, not everyone is going to want a 7-inch iPad. But this model, positioned squarely between the iPod touch and currently 10-inch iPad, would provide a perfect middle ground, especially for those who will continue to use the iPad for consumption purposes only. (As is the case with virtually all iPad owners today, by the way.) And that would provide an opening for the larger device to turn into more of mainstream computing device.
The iPad's currently storage allotments are simply too small. Apple should use its iPod touch as a guide and offer 32 GB, 64 GB, and even 128 GB versions of the device.
While Apple clearly intended to include dual cameras in the current iPad--there is a hole designed for this purpose inside the case--it didn't, and now there's no way to add one. The next iPad will definitely include dual cameras, however, for Facetime and other purposes. It's overdue.
The current iPad's screen is far too glossy and reflective to be used in many situations, making it less than ideal for eBook reading, movie watching, and other activities where you can more clearly see your own reflection than the onscreen content. My advice here is simple: Apple needs to make a non-glossy screen available as an option, even an added cost option, as it does with some of its notebook computers. This, combined with a smaller, lighter form factor, would solve a ton of usability problems and make the iPad a truly useful device.
Apple's aversion to ports is cute, but the iPad would be so much more useful with some combination of integrated USB, SD, and HDMI ports. The current model has an optional VGA out adapter (VGA out?) but it's time to embrace more modern standards, and HDMI supports both audio and video.
So, do I expect Apple to actually implement any of these ideas? Actually, for the most part, I do not. Yes, Apple will lower prices, as it always does over time. Storage allotment will likely increase over time, if slowly. And cameras are clearly on the way. But the rest of my ideas are, perhaps, too un-Apple. But if the company is serious about pushing the iPad up the food chain, and I believe it is, it will need to embrace some features and technologies that PC and Mac users take for granted. It will get there. The only question is whether the competition outpaces it.