Rumor and inference have it that Apple will release the next generation iPad next spring. The new device is expected to have two cameras (front and back), and may be able to work with multiple carriers, rather than just AT&T. These seem like obvious enhancements, which makes me wonder if the press has thought this up, or if Apple is really not worried about the competition.
Two cameras seem unnecessary for the iPad. Video conferencing works well enough with Skype on a laptop, but that’s because you don’t have to hold the camera steady. On an iPad, you would need to have some predictable way of bracing the device at a fairly steep angle so that you could both be seen looking approximately at the viewer, rather than broadcasting the underside of your chin. This of course means buying some specific stand.
I’ll be curious to see how well the forward-facing camera works, too: whereas on the phone, it’s easy to brace the entire device in one hand while taking the picture, on an iPad this will likely lead to more motion of the device that the sensor can compensate for. The result is that unless lighting is really good, you’re more likely to get blurry pictures. A flash might help for close-ups, at the expense of reduced battery life.
Being able to switch carriers is certainly an advantage for Apple, as it breaks its dependence on AT&T, but in terms of the user experience, that has no significant effect.
It’ll be interesting to see, in the end, if Apple continues to focus on the device as a platform for consuming information, or if it adds functionality (other than a camera) to make the device a more capable platform for creating information as well. Of course that might cut into MacBook Air profits…