The big news today is Apple’s new iPad announcement, an event whose usual Apple drama was upstaged by a surprise visit by Steve Jobs. The essence of the announcement was familiar: “iPads are making us smarter, healthier, richer, better looking, and so forth, and that’s from the first version. Now look what’s going to happen!”
What is going to happen? Well, 2011 is the “Year of the Copycats” according to Jobs, but Apple isn’t resting on its laurels. The iPad 2 is based on a new dual-core chip that’s twice as fast, with new nine-times-faster graphics, front- and-rear-facing video cameras, built-in gyro, 33% thinner (thinner than an iPhone 4)—you get the picture. The new model will source HDMI at up to 1080p, which makes it a logical companion to HDTVs and probably presages more Apple work there. Network-wise, it’s not breaking any ground yet—still 3G and WiFi and no LTE or WiMAX. Pricing is the same; starting at about $500. Overall, it’s a major upgrade in performance and a modest improvement in features—the improvement being the dual cameras.
The new iPad 2 will certainly make things harder for the Android guys, particularly those that, like Motorola, have just announced their own tablets. At best, the current Android tablets are just about equal to the iPad, although most are significantly heavier/thicker, and the new iPad 2 trumps that form factor. There’s a lot of clever engineering in the gadget, even to magnetic catches on the cover that are sensed by the device and used to trigger a power-up when the cover is removed (you really don’t expect to see a cover demonstration on video at a launch event).
Apple is rising to the challenge of the competition, but it’s also showing that even its own dramatically innovative culture can’t create a revolution every year. The biggest bison can still be dragged down by a large pack of even little wolves.
But in the meantime, we have a clear trend to follow. Appliances are going to get lighter and more convenient but also more powerful, with better and better video. That’s going to make enterprises look even harder at using tablets for worker empowerment, and it’s going to make tablets a more and more attractive way to consume video, making multi-screen strategies all the more important. Most of all, we’re seeing yet again that the market is in the hands of the consumer device vendors. Nobody else is making any real progress being exciting. and without excitement, there’s no engagement with the media. Without media engagement, there’s no ability to market.