I had a chance to play with the iPad 2 at the university bookstore the other day (no waiting in line there!) and was impressed by the speed of the thing. I only ran a few quick tests — did a bit of typing on Pages, ran a YouTube video, and opened a few web pages: the newer iteration runs noticeably faster. It is also thinner and lighter, but I didn’t really notice that so much as I did the more beveled edging, which was less book-like and very pleasant.

I haven’t bought the new device because 1) I’ve only had the old one for a freakin’ year and I’m not swapping my pad every time they kick a new one out the door, 2) the old one works well enough for what I do that I’m not feeling the need to upgrade. Point of fact: I do most of my media cosumption on the iPad now, and even quite a bit of my production. I’d say between it and the laptop (a MacBook Air) I spend 60-65% of my computing time on the iPad. If I were running my old, heavy Dell Inspiron 14oo…it would be closer to 75% of the time with the iPad over the laptop, because it’s much easier to transport. The Air is light and comfortable enough that I drag it with me if I know I’m going to be doing some heavy typing. And 3) there’s a lot of reports of manufacturing defects with the iPad 2 — primarily in the screen, which is prone to backlight spillage and some color artifacts. Also, there’s a lot of reports that video on the camera is glitching.

So for me, I’m waiting for the iPad 3, rumored to be hitting the shelves in late 2011. I suspect most of the differences between the devices will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. Here’s what I’mhoping they’ll include:

This is the big one: No iTunes synching! The major Achilles Heel of the iPad is the need to — at least the first time and for software updates — synchronize with the bloatware we call iTunes. It seriously hampers the usability of the iPad, especially if travelling internationally, where you have to either get raped by AT&T on an international data plan, or jump through hoops with iTunes firing up another SIM card. (I went through this in Britain…it’s not hard, it’s just a pain in the ass.)

A shift to the Retina-style high resolution screens. The screen quality on the iPad doesn’t suck, but it could be better.

Instead of trying to give us a thinner machine, how about a bit more flexibility in functionality? I would like to see an SD or MicroSD card reader — even if it’s just the ability to access it through the camera adapters — and the ability to use the said devices for storage. (I use a high-speed 64GB SD Card as an extra drive on my Air, effectively increasing my storage by 50%.)

A shift from 3G to 4G. would be a good idea.

On the software side: What they hell were they thinking not rolling out the pinch to home and 4-figer swipe to change active apps? It’s so much easier to use and spares the Home button a ton of wear and tear. I fired it up by downloading XCode and setting the iPad up as a developer device. The addition of these multitouch features is an absolute must!

Printing Printing Printing! Apple has screwed the pooch a few times this last year. They were flanked by Google with cloud printing (which is great!), allowing you to print from the iPad. You have a few hoops to jump through, like emailing a file to your gmail account, but overall, it’s better than nothing. They lost out to Amazon on cloud storage, and honestly, earlier than that to Dropbox — which I highly recommend for online storage and sharing.

I really couldn’t care less about cameras and the other doo-dads, but the suggestions above I think would keep the iPad well ahead of any challengers that the other computer manufacturers might finally get out the door this year.