Prediction: Apple’s Next 2 iPads: iPad iChat & iPad One

When the first rumors of the iPad began circulating – I immediately dismissed them on the grounds it wasn’t clear to me how a tablet fit into Apple’s deliberately simple product line.

I’m still not convinced it does.

It could be argued there’s enough space between the iPod Touch and the Mac Book for another product – but it could be easily argued the $400 – $900 is actually a black hole for consumer electronics. Too costly to be considered disposable, too cheap to be elite.

Enter the Apple iPad.

Aimed squarely – if awkwardly – at that price point.

Awkwardly – because the iPad is, essentially a stretched iPod Touch. Or more accurately – a stretched iPhone without the phone part. With a higher price point of both. (There’s an interesting argument in thinking of the iPad as Apple TV version 3 – but that’s for a different post.)

In addition to awkwardly straddling a space between Apple’s product lines – the iPad’s currently announced feature set feels simultaneously too little and too much. The combination of the open Web and constrained App Store at the software level and free WiFi and subscription-fee AT&T at the hardware level continues to feel like a conflict of intention.

So I predict Apple will quickly extend the iPad family by this time in 2011:

  • iPad iChat: webcam1, microphone, no AT&T – just WiFi, $699. This would finally fulfill The Future’s promise of portable video phones. Only WiFi because AT&T wouldn’t want to risk their 3G network stability. This would also be the Kitchen computing device – hang it on the wall, talk with extended family while making dinner, or voice control the playback of a NetFlix streaming movie, etc.
  • iPad One: only App Store, no web browser, no WiFi – just AT&T, $399. Think of this as Simple Finder as a distinct device. The complexity and unknowns of the ‘raw’ internet completely removed.

Elsewhere:

“All this argument over whether the iPad is too simple — if anything it’s probably still too complex.” – John Gruber, Daring Fireball

1. According to CrunchGear, the current iPad already thinks it has a webcam anyway.

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