What will a more powerful iPad get you?
The second-generation iPad will have better performance--that's a given. An analyst discusses the fundamentals of how that may change the iPad experience.
With the iPad experience--for the better, of course.expected to have better performance, an analyst expects multitasking to help change the
"My guess is that we'll see a general improvement in responsiveness but big improvements in multitasking will come from changes to the software," said Joe Byrne, an analyst at chip consultant The Linley Group, responding to an e-mail query.
But better software alone does not a faster tablet make. A higher-performance processor means a tablet is capable of more heavy lifting for applications. "Usually [a single core] CPU (central processing unit) is fast enough that it can process each piece with time to spare, giving the appearance of simultaneity. What happens a lot, though, is that the system has to go do something that cannot be interrupted. Everything just grinds to a halt then," he said.
The iPad is currently not designed for true multitasking. Which leads to thoughts about the possibility the iPad 2 will have a dual-core processor and what this could mean. Byrne continues. "With a second [processor] core, the system can process pieces two at a time. If a task arises that cannot be interrupted, one CPU can handle that task while the other can keep the round-robin process going--making for a much more responsive system."
(Update: On Wednesday, Steve Jobs announced at the iPad 2 event in San Francisco that the new iPad has a dual-core processor and "9X faster graphics.")
And reviews of the dual-core-packing Motorola Xoom bear this out. The Xoom excels at processor-intensive tasks such as multitasking, fast loading of multiple Web pages, and gaming.
If the iPad 2 follows suit with a beefier processor, it will be in good company. All upcoming tablets from top-tier companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion, Toshiba, and Samsung will sport dual-core processors, as Motorola has already done.
RIM, like Motorola, claims the extra processing power makes a big difference. "At its heart, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a multitasking powerhouse," according to a statement last year from RIM, adding that this results in "a highly responsive and fluid touch-screen experience for apps and content services."
There is one head-scratching development that shrouds Samsung--the manufacturer to date of iPhone and iPad chips--in mystery. Samsung's consumer arm opted for an Nvidia dual-core design in its Galaxy Tab 10.1 Honeycomb Tablet, not its own ARM chip.
Meanwhile, Samsung Semiconductor has announced its own dual-core design that is expected to go into production this month. What this means exactly for the iPad 2 isn't clear. But we should know soon enough.
Updated on March 2 at 10:20 a.m. PST: adding news about dual-core processor in iPad 2.