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 upcoming iPad expected to have better performance, an analyst expects multitasking to help change the iPad experience--for the better, of course.

"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.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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