Apple has sent out invitations to the media for a press event on March 2. The invitation has an image displaying the corner of an iPad--implying that this will finally be the unveiling of the details for the next generation Apple tablet.
The timing of the media invitations is impeccable. The Motorola Xoom tablet--the first to hit the street sporting the Android "Honeycomb" OS specifically developed for tablets--will be available starting today, and the Apple tease may disrupt the initial success of the Xoom launch as potential tablet buyers who are still on the fence hold out to see what Apple has to offer.
The rumors surrounding the iPad 2--and pretty much anything else Apple right now--are rampant. It will have front and rear facing cameras, or not. It will be smaller, or bigger. It will be have a Retina display, or not. About all we can say for sure is that Apple will soon offer an iPad 2. The rest is pure speculation.
Granted, though, some of the speculation is more reasonable than others and falls more under the heading of "educated guess". It seems fair to assume that the next generation iPads will have faster processors, more memory, and possibly larger storage capacities, because that is just the natural order of the evolution of technology from year to year. It also seems like a virtual guarantee that the iPad 2 will have front and rear facing cameras and include Apple's FaceTime video chat capabilities.
Rival tablets, like the Xoom, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the HP TouchPad, all raise the bar in terms of feature and functionality...compared to the original iPad. If any of those tablets were available six months ago, they would probably have been quite successful at capturing a good chunk of the market. But, the Xoom is just coming out this week and the other two are still vaporware until sometime later this year. Meanwhile, the iPad 2 will most likely at least meet the bar--if not set it even higher--making these rival tablets obsolete before they're even available.
Assuming the bar stays where it is--that Apple unveils the iPad 2 and it has a better processor, more memory, front and rear cameras, etc., but nothing that really sets it apart from these competing tablets--Apple will still have the advantage. Apple has an advantage by having a one year head start and dominating the market it created, and Apple has an advantage in price that rivals seem to be facing challenges matching.
For those considering a Xoom at $800, or committing to a two-year contract with Verizon to get the cost subsidized to $600, it may be worth waiting a week to see what Apple pulls out of its magic hat.