Who needs "sources close to the project" and anonymous scuttlebutt, when company job listings paint an official, if vague, portrait of a product's future?
While tech blogs fall over themselves to sniff out clues about the upcoming Apple iPad, the company posted an interesting help-wanted ad. The job listing calls for a quality-assurance engineer to work with the iPad Media team. Most of the description is rather boilerplate for Apple – must be "team-oriented" and have "cutting-edge software techniques with next-generation hardware." But certain phrases offer a peak behind the curtain.
Candidates should have "knowledge of digital camera technology (still and video) to develop and maintain testing frameworks for both capture and playback pipelines," it reads. "Good solid knowledge of photography," is a must, and the candidate should be "knowledgeable with lighting, whether artificial or ambient and how it affects image quality."
Those lines are curious because the iPad doesn't have a camera. Photos and video are clearly important to the company. Apple has already squeezed a camera into every computer it makes and most iPods. It also updated the iPhone's last year to make it a video camera. Tack on the report that the iPad's frame has room to fit a webcam – suggesting that an older design once included one – and you've got a pretty good snapshot of the second-generation iPad.
Amazon's recent job posting is perhaps more enlightening. Its call for a Hardware Display Manager points to a future evolution of the Kindle e-reader that ditches e-ink for an iPad-like color screen. The final line of the ad is the most interesting. A candidate must have, "Significant exposure to high volume manufacturing environments; you will know the LCD business and key players in the market." (Also, the ad never mentions e-ink, the Kindle's current display technology.)
Kindle has already taken several steps to stave off the rival iPad. Perhaps the company worries that e-ink will soon encumber the device's growth. The technology is great for plain text and battery life, but struggles with or simply cannot offer multitouch, color, and smooth animation. An LCD screen would excel at those points and turn the Kindle into more of a digital Swiss Army knife, much like the iPad. It would also make Kindles more expensive – something Amazon may not want to risk.