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The new iPad Looks Great for Mobile Videoconferencing

March 7, 2012 | David S. Maldow, Esq.
new_ipad.pngToday was the big day. Apple announced the latest version of the device which created, and then completely dominated, the market for tablet computers. For videoconferencing fans, this is a big deal. The demand for mobile video, and the rush from vendors to meet this demand, has been a constant theme in the industry in the last few years. While video on smart phones is valuable, the larger tablet screens can obviously provide a more compelling face to face meeting experience. If we are interested in tablets, then we are, by default, interested in iPads, which currently own the market.

First of all, if you were betting that it would be called "iPad HD" or "iPad 3" you are out of luck. The official name appears to be simply "The new iPad." It is being initially offered at the same pricing as the old iPad 2 (starting at $499) and appears to be the same physical specs (yes, it still has the home button). While the various features and functions will be extensively covered on every tech site in existence, I would like to focus on what matters most for videoconferencing; the display, camera, processor and connectivity.

Retina display
The new iPad boasts a 2047 by 1536 pixel display (the iPad 2 display is 1024 x 768). To put this in perspective, this is over a million more pixels than a 1080p HDTV, condensed into the iPad's 9.7" screen. Apple may be stating the truth when they call this "the best mobile display that has ever shipped." Apple explains that by "Retina display" they mean it is at the limits of human perception. If they added more pixels, the average person would not be able to tell the difference (at normal viewing distance). Assuming their claim is true, this could be the final goalposts for the long running videoconferencing resolution wars.

The 5 megapixel iSight camera (which appears to be based upon the much acclaimed camera from the iPhone 4S) can shoot 1080p video. As exciting as the new camera may be, for videoconferencing we will mostly use the front facing "FaceTime" camera, which appears to only support VGA resolution. A higher resolution would certainly be appreciated. Remember, this device will be used to connect to standard room videoconferencing systems. VGA on a 65" display is not completely unacceptable, but it is well below today's HD expectations.

A great display and cameras don't do us much good unless the iPad has enough processor power to put them to good use. The iPad's new AFX chip has quad-core graphics processing which provides four times the performance of the iPad 2. During the event, Apple demoed a new videogame from Epic Games and noted that the new iPad is has more memory and processing power than an XBOX 360. Based on the feedback from the demo, I can't wait to see what the iPad can do with high definition videoconferencing applications.

As expected, the new iPad supports 4G LTE from either Verizon or AT&T. Without getting into technical details, we can simply say that is certainly fair to expect today's soft codecs and videoconferencing applications to be able to provide a fantastic interactive experience with 4G bandwidth.

There are a lot of other features to like about the new iPad. For example, the new dictation features, updates to iMovie, iPhoto, iLife and iWork will all be sure to generate a lot of buzz. The bottom line for videoconferencing vendors is that this is clearly THE device for the next generation of mobile collaboration applications.

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