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.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
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.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

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.