An Apple event demonstrates its iBooks 2 app on an iPad at New York's Guggenheim Museum in January.
Getty Images/File
An Apple event demonstrates its iBooks 2 app on an iPad at New York's Guggenheim Museum in January.

Story highlights

Apple is expected to unveil its newest iPad on Wednesday

Speculation is that it will have a higher-resolution display and a better camera

The voice-activated Siri "personal assistant" also may be on board

If it's not an iPad? It might be Apple TV, (but it's probably an iPad)

CNN —  

When Apple holds a press event Wednesday, everyone who’s paying attention expects to see the much-anticipated iPad 3.

The latest version of the device that virtually defined the tablet market after its introduction in 2010, the iPad 3 will arrive at a time when competitors are beginning to put up a bit of a fight.

Amazon made a splash with its simpler, cheaper Kindle Fire over the holidays, and rival bookseller Barnes & Noble has countered with its popular Nook Tablet. The Acer Iconia A500 offers more memory than the iPad 2, while other companies have begun flooding the market with devices that are smaller and cheaper than Apple’s standard-bearer.

And, just this week, Microsoft rolled out its Windows 8 operating system for tablets, suggesting that Windows-based tablets could be making a serious run.

So, what will Apple do to try to maintain its dominance? As usual, Apple has remained tight-lipped about what it’s announcing. The company hasn’t even officially said the event is for the iPad.

But it’s been almost a year since the iPad 2’s release, making the timing right for a refresh. And with the tech-centric South by Southwest Interactive Festival starting next weekend, it would make sense. Last year, Apple announced at the last minute it would be selling the iPad 2 at the Austin, Texas, event – ensuring buzz among the tech influencers there.

Few people outside Apple know for sure what CEO Tim Cook will unveil next week. But assuming it’s a new iPad, speculation and leaks have focused on a few possibilities:

Clearer display

This image was on the invitation Apple sent out for its Wednesday launch event. It looks like an iPad, right?
Apple
This image was on the invitation Apple sent out for its Wednesday launch event. It looks like an iPad, right?

One tidbit that’s cropped up over and over is that Apple manufacturers have cranked out a display screen that would be a huge leap from the current model.

The story, largely originating from China where Apple products are made, is that the iPad 3 will have a 2048-by-1536-pixel retina display. That would be a major leap from the iPad 2’s 1024 by 768 pixels and rival the display on high-definition television.

There have even been reports, based on parts listings provided to suppliers, that the new gadget could be called the iPad HD. (For the record, suppliers aren’t told Apple’s marketing plans, so take that with a grain of salt.)

Many tech observers who looked at Apple’s digital media invitation to the event suspect the crisp, clear partial image of what looks like an iPad is showing off the new display.

The impact could mean more vivid gaming and movie watching as well as easier reading – a claim that Amazon has been able to make so far with its E-ink Kindles.

However, some observers believe a higher-resolution screen could pose a problem for app developers who haven’t prepared for it. Some apps that don’t boost the pixel count of their graphics could look blurrier than they do on the iPad 2.

Siri

When the iPhone 4S rolled out this year, Siri was perhaps the main feature that numbed the techie pain of not getting a radically updated iPhone 5. (What’s in a name, indeed?)

Some folks focused on the voice-activated “personal assistant’s” limitations, but the ability to talk to a tiny, handheld computer and have it talk back, much less perform helpful tasks, captured the imaginations of many new owners.

Perhaps in an effort to lend the 4S some pizazz, Apple didn’t enable the app on its older phones. But it’s hard to imagine why the chatty helper wouldn’t be included on the top-of-the-line iPad.

A cheaper iPad

Some observers say Apple may try to challenge less-expensive tablets on the market. At $199, the Kindle Fire is $300 cheaper than the least-expensive iPad.

The Christian Science Monitor quotes an unnamed source saying that Apple is working on a simpler, 8-gigabyte version of the iPad. Currently, the lowest-end iPad has 16 gigabytes of storage, running up to 64 gigabytes on the high end.

The emergence of cloud-based storage has, in some ways, mitigated the importance of storage space on devices such as tablets. And 8 gigabytes would put a cheaper iPad on par with the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. Even if the offering were a simplified iPad 2, attacking the competition on two fronts could help Apple stem the swelling tide of competition.

Remember also, when Apple introduced the iPad 2 a year a