How iPad 3 can fulfil Apple's 'post-PC device' promise

What next?

But if the iPad 2 isn't quite a post-PC device yet, Apple's little word-pay with the phrase has certainly got everybody thinking: what exactly needs to happen with the next iPad to turn it into a device that could actually replace a PC?

In one sense, absolutely nothing, it could simply be a matter of time: "Apple doesn't need to do anything with the next version of the iPad: the revolution has already begun", comments Hockenberry.

Freelance iPhone, iPad and OS X developer Matt Gemmell takes the long view: "I think we're still at the beginning of the 'tablet' era in the sense that people are still coming to terms with what these devices can offer, but the limitations are in our own perception and preconceptions, rather than intrinsic to the hardware form-factor or the touch-screen interaction method. App after app, month after month, proves that point."

He's right - if you think about it there's nothing inherently unsuitable about tablets for all the tasks you'd want to do on a PC. Apple's recent releases of the video editing app iMovie and the music making and recording app GarageBand demonstrate this. Both apps enable you to do 'proper' work in them - the sort of thing you'd normally expect to have to use a PC for.

What the iPad 3 needs

So what more would iPad 3 have to do to help people finally drop the PC habit? First of all, wireless syncing. The thing that keeps your tablet tethered to your PC at the moment is the need to connect it to sync, and back-up your data, but in the always-on world there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to live entirely in the cloud, backing up and storing all your data wirelessly.

The next thing Apple needs to add is a USB port, and the ability to use it to plug in a DVD drive/hard drive/printer and have it 'just work'. While you hardly ever really need to use the CD/DVD drive on your laptop any more, you still can't really live without it - there will always been moments when you need to use one, even if it's not very often.

You can already connect Bluetooth keyboards to your tablet, and with iPad 2 Apple provided the welcome ability to mirror the display thanks to a rather expensive cable, but we'd love somebody to invent a wireless display.

We're half way there already with Apple's AirPlay system for streaming music and movies to your TV or a monitor plugged into an Apple TV. How about taking that next step and streaming the Home screen and apps? Then the iPad 3 could become the computer you take anywhere and just connect to whatever display/keyboard/peripheral you have in your home/office when you arrive.

Until we get that little lot, we don't think you can truly call the iPad a post-PC device, but even if the iPad 2 isn't currently quite as post-PC as Apple would like you to believe, it's still the tablet to beat.

Oli Christie, CEO of Neon Play, the company behind Paper Glider, the 10 millionth app downloaded from the App Store, has it right when he comments: "Whether it will replace the desktop PC in the short term is debatable, but it's all-consuming coolness for reading books, watching movies, playing games and everything else the App Store offers makes it the must-have accessory for 2011."

Graham Barlow
Senior Editor, AI

Graham is the Senior Editor for AI at TechRadar. With over 25 years of experience in both online and print journalism, Graham has worked for various market-leading tech brands including Computeractive, PC Pro, iMore, MacFormat, Mac|Life, Maximum PC, and more. He specializes in reporting on everything to do with AI and has appeared on BBC TV shows like BBC One Breakfast and on Radio 4 commenting on the latest trends in tech. Graham has an honors degree in Computer Science and spends his spare time podcasting and blogging.