Slate of confusion for iPad crowd

Apple's new tablet has left the web buzzing, writes Garry Barker.
Most of us are still suffering iPad fever and a full flush (a term here used advisedly) of further speculation, and, from those favoured few who have actually touched one, assessment continues to wash through the webisphere.
The speculation is intriguing mainly because it is about further development of the device, even though the first-generation iPad will not hit the shelves for more than a month.
Assessments range from the calm and objective to the rave, followed by criticism of the design because it does not have (insert here whatever you like, from a camera to one of those things for taking stones out of horses' hooves).
For example, some of the critics who had not toddled off for a beer have been suggesting a larger-format iPad is in the Apple works.
Wired, which is usually pretty sane, is saying Apple is working on a larger design, possibly with a 15-inch screen and running a full version of Mac OS X rather than the slimmed-down versions in the iPhone and iPad.
Wired suggests this device will have a webcam, similar to those built into the bezels of iMacs and MacBooks, and a physical keyboard, possibly derived from the compact Bluetooth model supplied as standard with the latest iMacs.
But why? Unless the price is also iPad-sized, you would be better off with an entry-level MacBook.
Supporting the webcam theory is a report in the San Jose Business Journal, which interviewed a bloke at Mission Repair, a company that fixes Apple products. He said he had received a box of iPad parts including some frames that had a slot where a camera could fit. They tried a MacBook camera and it fitted "perfectly", he said.
Some suggest the iPad will spark a revival of the lacklustre tablet market. But since tablets barely made a wave, "revival" is an exaggeration.
There is some anxiety about what the iPad might do to communications network capacity. Last week a blog from the US Federal Communications Commission expressed concern: "With the iPad pointing to even greater demand for mobile broadband ... we must ensure that network congestion doesn't choke a service consumers clearly find appealing [or frustrate] mobile broadband's ability to keep us competitive in the global economy."
The wireless spectrum is clearly under strain and major reassignment of frequencies must be done, which will upset some entrenched users, such as TV outside broadcasters.
That there is plenty of "watch this space" about the iPad is obvious. We have seen it already in iPods and iPhones. Later this year we expect an iPhone 4G with a faster, more efficient microprocessor, designed by the engineers Apple acquired in 2008 when it bought P.A. Semi, a small US chip design company. They produced Apple's A4 chip that powers iPad.
One should note that the A4 is not, in the accepted sense of the term, just a CPU (central processing unit, the brains of a computer). It is what the boffins call an SOC (system on a chip), meaning it handles lots of tasks — graphics, memory control and so on — as well as being a CPU, all on a single piece of silicon.
SOC technology is used in several smartphones - iPhone, Google's Nexus One and Motorola's Droid. Their big deal is that they are efficient and are power-misers, which is critical for battery-powered devices.
While Apple has not published specifics of the A4 chip in the iPad, it is thought to have four cores, meaning that, at a clock speed of 1 gigahertz, it rivals the graphics performance of my 3.06GHz dual-core Intel iMac.
Moore's law continues to rule — but maybe not for netbooks.


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