Wishing upon their iPads

Fans dream up ways Apple can perfect its popular tablet

Apple’s invitation to a press event Wednesday fueled speculation that an iPad 3 is imminent.

Will the next iPad talk? Could it get any smaller? What about a beefier camera or souped-up processor?

Rumors about what might come on a third-generation tablet from Apple Inc. have swirled since the company revealed last week that a big announcement was coming on Wednesday.

“We have something you really have to see. And touch,’’ Apple said on invitations to a press event in San Francisco.


That sounds like it could very well be the iPad 3. (Or the iPad HD, as one rumor has it named.) Apple lovers certainly hope so. And there are plenty of those folks in the tech-friendly Boston area.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

According to Michael Oh, president of Tech Superpowers, an independent Apple retailer in Boston, anticipation is growing. “Everybody want to know what’s next,’’ he said.

Even though 55 million first- and second-generation iPads have been sold since the device debuted in 2010, new features like Apple’s voice-controlled virtual assistant Siri - now only available on the latest iPhone - could convince many buyers to upgrade, or sway holdouts to take the leap.

Nobody knows what a new iPad might hold. But what do users want? We asked devoted fans - a doctor, a professor, a technology researcher, and a software developer - what features would make their iPad 3 a dream machine.

John Halamka, chief information officer, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

“Make it smaller, make it faster, make it more beautiful, make downloads faster, and add Siri - and there you go,’’ said Halamka, who oversees technology systems at Beth Israel, one of the largest hospitals in the area.

Fifty-five million iPads have been sold since 2010.


About 1,000 doctors and nurses at Beth Israel use iPads, according to Halamka. Even though the tablet caught on fast in the medical world, giving caregivers quick access to patient records and portable use of medical software, there is room for improvement, he said.

“The perfect clinical device weighs about a pound, fits into a white coat pocket, has a 10-hour battery life, can be dropped five feet onto carpet without damage, and is easily disinfected,’’ he said.

The current iPad is close, but not quite there; for one thing, it doesn’t fit into a lab coat pocket, according to Halamka. “It’s just slightly too large,’’ he said. “What you would ideally like is an 8-inch screen.’’

Halamka could be in luck. There is speculation that Apple will release a smaller version of the iPad with a 7.85 inch display. Just right to slip into a pocket, next to the stethoscope.

N. Venkat Venkatraman, professor at Boston University’s School of Management

Venkatraman is a bit of an Apple addict. He talks on an iPhone 4, types on a Macbook Air, and has used both the iPad 1 and 2 in his management classes at Boston University. And he will probably snatch up the next generation of the iPad, even if it doesn’t have everything he desires.


But to create a better iPad, especially for use in the classroom, Venkatraman wants a device with higher resolution display that connects more seamlessly to the cloud storage network.

‘Make it smaller, make it faster, make it more beautiful, make downloads faster, and add Siri - and there you go.’

Dick Galvin Developer

“People are going to want access to high-definition content, so the tablet will be more useful,’’ he said. And since the storage capacity of the iPad is limited - one rumor suggests Apple may even do away with its high-end, 64-gigabyte iPad - that means users often have to rely on cloud storage networks.

“If I have a 2-gigabyte presentation and I want to suddenly pull that up in the class, I have to go to Google and have to upload it,’’ he said. “Even if that takes 90 seconds, that’s 90 seconds of dead time in the class.’’

Jeff Chow, chief executive officer of Springpad

Chow is most excited about the possibility of the so-called retina high-definition display coming on the iPad. As the “resident gadget geek’’ at Springpad, a Boston company with 3 million users who store and share info via the Web, he wants the sharper pictures, better video quality, and enhanced graphics a better display would deliver.

But Chow is also an app developer, so he is also looking for Siri on Apple’s next tablet - and for Apple to allow companies like his to create software that could tap into Siri’s voice controls. He imagines asking an iPad Siri about what to cook for dinner, and having it open up a recipe stored in the Springpad app.

Eric Rosenbaum, a PhD student and research assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab

What if Apple changed the way the iPad screen felt based on its myriad uses? asked Rosenbaum, a doctoral student at the MIT Media Lab. Instead of just smooth glass, maybe the screen could feel more like a musical instrument when using an app that simulated a piano.

And what about when it comes to typing on the iPad?

“Could it transform itself into a physical keypad, and then flatten out again?’’ he asked. “I don’t think technology for that exists, but that would be awesome.’’

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at