Apple may be prepping a follow-up to the iPad, and if the experts are right, it could be an even better business tablet.
Like many young companies today, Telltale Games -- a development studio that creates and digitally distributes games for PCs, consoles and mobile devices -- is a frequent user of new technology. And tablets are no exception.
Specifically, the Apple iPad is a popular tool at the San Rafael, Calif.-based company, which employs roughly 80 people.
"My iPad has sort of become hardwired to me in a way my laptop never was," says senior marketing vice president Steve Allison. "The form factor makes it more like grabbing a magazine than lugging an 8-pound laptop around the office, at home or on a trip -- and that changes everything about my usage pattern."
Allison says the iPad is a convenient way to catch up on email with multiple accounts, plus he can easily stay on top of sales information in real-time via the Safari browser.
But for everything the iPad offers, Allison concedes it's missing a few key features.
"I'd love to see a front-facing camera for video chats and rear facing cameras with a flash and built-in photo apps." "I'd love to be able to use the same mobile phone number across my iPad and iPhone, if that was possible," Allison adds.
Turns out, Allison may get his wish: a successor to the iPad may be more suited for work.
Speculation about the iPad 2 According to consumer analyst Rob Enderle with the Enderle Group, the next iPad will use a multi-core processor. That means the tablet will likely run faster and handle multi-tasking chores -- running a back-up while you download e-mail, for example.
"This is important for business as one core could be dedicated to, say handling virus checking, which will become more important for tablets. The existing iPad bogs down, it doesn't handle multitasking very well," he says.
Enderle says there will likely be a design change with the iPad 2 to match the iPhone 4, which uses a more flat design and holds up better to abuse.
"The iPad 2 will likely have a higher-resolution 'Retina' display, more storage, such as 128GB of memory, a camera or two and a thinner and lighter design," predicts Laura DiDio, a principal at Information Technology Intelligence Corp. (ITIC), a research and consulting firm based in the suburban Boston area.
On doubling the existing iPad's flash memory, DiDio says "when it comes to business, you can't have too much storage." That means more memory for rich documents such as slideshows, massive high-resolution photos, and a complete collection of Word files.
On the front- and rear-facing cameras, DiDio says there are many businesses that can benefit from this added functionality. "Construction managers and insurance adjusters, for example, could take pictures, add notes and send them on via email, from wherever they are."
Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies in Campbell, Calif., a tech consultancy, confirms a front-facing camera would be handy for video conferencing. "It would be great to 'FaceTime' with colleagues [using the Apple app for video chats on the iPhone 4] or clients -- and on a Retina display for better resolution."
Near-Field Communication? Bajarin also says Near-Field Communications, or NFC, might be integrated into the second-generation iPad. On the short-range wireless technology, Bajarin says a small chip and software could let the iPad be used for mobile payments "when waved across a terminal, not unlike a car fast-tracking through a toll booth with an on-dash transponder."
"NFC integration is the one thing you could argue could have significant impact on SMBs," adds Bajarin. "iPads in business are really in its early stages, [as] companies [are] trying to figure out how to use them -- but there is strong interest, indeed."
For business, the timing is just about right for an iPad follow-up.
DiDio says the current iPad model is making inroads at work. An ITIC survey found roughly 86 percent of respondents say they use the iPad for both work and play. One reason, she says, is due to a deal with Unisys in October to service iPads, which covers businesses from a support angle.
Will the iPad 2 become as popular as the original? We'll all have to wait and see.