The tablet may be refreshed with a built-in video camera and support for FaceTime by the first quarter of next year, according to Apple Insider. A "person with proven knowledge of Apple's future product plans" told the website that the device is already in the advanced testing stages and Apple may plan to push the launch through before the holiday season - something PC Advisor predicted last week.
If you're like me, the holiday season starts the day before Black Friday. That gives Apple 75 days to get its act together.
The only problem is timing. It seems a little off, since Apple typically sticks to a yearly schedule for product upgrades. Most people, including folks at research firm iSuppli expected an upgrade in April 2011 -- a year after the initial iPad launch.
New hardware could fall in line with the release of iOS 4.2 in November (a little late for the start of the holiday season, if you ask me). Steve Jobs announced the future upgrade at the fall music event on September 1. He said it will bring new features to the iPad, including file-sharing, multitasking (finally), and HDR photos. A new iPad model could explain how the device would feature photos since all the current models are camera-less.
This could also make the iPad more accessible to businesses. Apple already announced wireless printing in iOS 4.2, so adding FaceTime could appeal to people who telecommute or travel frequently.
Whether or not we see a camera-equipped iPad before the year's end, it's probably inevitable that we'll see one by the end of 2011.
It only makes sense when you consider the iPad's popularity and that Apple is trying to make FaceTime an open industry standard. Neglecting to put the video chat software on one of your most popular products would be bad joojoo.