Apple iPad 2, The Sequel, Prepares For Its First Outing

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There is a multitude of questions surrounding the iPad 2, but today may provide all the answers

If Apple fails to deliver the iPad 2 at its launch event in San Francisco, California, later today, there will be much gnashing of teeth and wailing from the Apple fanboys (and fangirls).

Never in the company’s history has so much attention been drawn by a product launch [well, not since the last one – editor], because it will set the bar for the Android tablet-wannabe companies in what has become a massive growth market in a cash-strapped world economy.

Number 2 Pitches To Be Number One

That the iPad 2 will appear on the stage is beyond doubt. The choice of 2 March and the prominent display of the number 2 in Apple’s press invites belies the company’s tight-lipped approach to the contents of the presentation.

Speculation abounds whether the ailing CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, will make an appearance but for Tim Cook, Jobs-substitute and heir apparent, it will be a stage debut he will never forget. When it comes to whipping up a crowd, Jobs will be a hard act for Cook to follow.

Rumours of what will and will not be featured in and around the new iPad have been resonating across the wires for months now. Will it have a camera – or two cameras? What is this mysterious metal casing it may, or may not, have? Will there be a Home button? How big is the screen?

There has also been speculation that it may just be a small-screen version of the current iPad and that a second device will appear in September – or will that be iPad 3? The truth is no-one outside Apple and its suppliers can be really sure.

The truth will be revealed today in black and white – colour casing ranges being another area of debate.

Make or break?

Some analysts have predicted that this will be make or break for Apple. The success of the first iPad, launched less than a year ago, and the imminent launch of a plethora of Android pads could mean that the world is not ready for another version so soon.

“This event is not to be taken lightly, as the iPad is an important growth driver for Apple, and the company enjoys a first mover advantage,” wrote Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, in a March 1 research note. “Assuming a new iPad is unveiled at this event, we believe Apple must make a convincing case for why the iPad 2 is better than the plethora of competitors coming to market.”

Despite his concerns, White knows that the Apple market is different to any other. He added that Apple’s app ecosystem and strong brand recognition will allow it to “outpace” rivals in the near term. The fanatical Apple disciples are sure to be queuing up in the dead of night when the next device hits the shops.

The launch poses a massive challenge, or opportunity, to Motorola and its Xoom tablet. Hailed by reviewers as a possible successor to iPad’s throne, Xoom failed to impress when the price tag of $799 was announced. This placed Motorola at the high end of the tablet price range and it will have to rely on an underwhelming specification for iPad 2 or for Apple to hike up its prices to make the Xoom look economically competitive.

Other Android manufacturers, including Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Dell’s Streak 7, have pitched lower-priced models into the fray and have had a measure of success. One thing that they cannot compete with, however, is Apple’s success in establishing the iPad as the gold standard for tablets in the minds of consumers – even those with no desire to own one.

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