Analyst Brian Marshall of the investment firm Gleacher & Co. told ComputerWorld Friday that he predicts a new iPad to hit shelves in April 2011. While his speculation is unsubstantiated, other recent reports have intimated that Apple is eager to release a sequel to its tablet — possibly even by January. The iPad has exceeded expectations — unit sales may reach 12 million by the end of 2010 — but is facing a raft of new competitors, including Samsung's Galaxy and an upcoming Blackberry tablet. How would the iPad 2 distinguish itself from rivals? (Watch a discussion about the rumored new iPad.)

All-network compatibility
Right now, the iPad is only fully compatible with AT&T's much-maligned 3G network. (Customers can use Verizon, but must carry around a separate "miFi" device to get online.) Friday's speculation suggests that the next-generation iPad "will use Qualcomm's CDMA-GSM chip," says Suzanne Choney at PCWorld, to become compatible with Verizon, AT&T, Spring, and T-Mobile networks and function all over the world.

A slimmer look, of course
Apple likes its products compact, and even though the iPad is the thinnest tablet on the market, reportedly the plan is to slim it down further. Apple will accomplish that, says Antoine Gonsalves at Information Week, by making the new tablet out of one piece of metal, "essentially adopting [the same] manufacturing process... it uses for its unibody MacBooks."

Mini-USB port
In September, Bloomberg reported that the new iPad might come equipped with a mini-USB port, which could replace the 30-pin dock connector the current version uses. A USB, which many felt should have been included with the first-generation iPad, would allow users to transfer files to their tablet without connecting to another computer, allowing the device to act more like a traditional laptop.

Video conferencing
Apple's FaceTime video-chatting technology first appeared on the iPhone 4, then migrated to the iPod touch, says Ian Paul at PCWorld, so "the next logical move would be to put FaceTime on the iPad." An Apple Insider report from September indicated that a FaceTime-ready iPad was already in "advanced testing stages."

Dual cameras
If the new iPad does feature FaceTime, says Paul, expect two cameras — one facing forward, the other facing back. And indeed, investment analysts have said that "based on research within Apple's supply chain, the next iPad will have a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera," as well as a more old-fashioned VGA (video graphics array) camera in front.