Apple is expected to introduce the next generation of its iPad

Forget Super Tuesday. For technology enthusiasts, it’s all about what happens on Wednesday in Cupertino, Calif., where Apple is expected to unveil the next generation of its iPad.

The company is headed into its Wednesday media event with plenty of consumer anticipation for its next tablet computer, despite the fact that Apple hasn’t even confirmed that it is introducing a new iPad. The company’s media invitation said only: “We have something you really have to see. And touch.”

Apple is under a lot of pressure to impress with this tablet. The company faces a tougher business environment than it did with previous versions, and Apple has been losing some market share to other tablets that run versions of Google’s Android system, such as Amazon’s less expensive Kindle Fire.

Tom Mainelli, an analyst for IDC Research, said Apple probably isn’t fazed by the competition. “I don’t think Apple’s particularly interested in competing with a $199 tablet,” he said. “Amazon has staked out the low end of the market; Apple has always been the premium-priced product.”

Analysts and technology bloggers have rushed in to speculate about the tablet’s features and fill the silence left by the company’s tight-lipped public relations team.

The most popular theory is that the next iPad will display crisper, clearer video and text — a feature so important that some analysts speculate it will be called the iPad HD, not the iPad 3. Analysts also expect a faster processing chip and the capability to connect to high-speed 4G cellular networks.

Other potential additions analysts have suggested include Siri, the “personal assistant” software that was the main feature of the latest iPhone, and a better camera.

There’s also some speculation that Apple will unveil a new version of its TV set-top box, marking a more aggressive move into video content. In an analyst’s note, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek called the idea “possible.”

Wednesday’s event will be Apple’s first major release since the October death of Steve Jobs, the company’s co-founder. Although Jobs probably had a hand in developing the new product, many consider this a major test for chief executive Tim Cook.

Hayes Roth, a branding expert, said the event is really “less about the mystique of the product and more about the question of whether Apple is continuing to keep its brand promise.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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