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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

There’s nowhere to go with tablet innovation - even Apple seems to agree

Mark Bridge writes:

“Harder, better, faster, stronger”. Okay, so it’s a lyric from Daft Punk (or Kanye West, if you prefer) but it might as well be the vague design brief for second-generation tablets.

This struck me when I was at Mobile World Congress last month. Although each tablet manufacturer had its own USP - first to market, 3D cameras, a library of media content, a pressure-sensitive pen - there was as much emphasis on the operating system as there was on the other specifications. “Look what Honeycomb can do”, they all seemed to be saying. “It’s really good on our Android tablet”.

And it seemed to be a similar situation at Apple yesterday. Steve Jobs popped back into the office to unveil the second-generation iPad, a tablet that was 33% thinner than the original but still offered the same battery life. It’s now thinner than an iPhone 4, which is pretty darned impressive.

However, the initial impression hasn’t changed. Same screen size, same resolution. There’s a new dual-core chip inside - not such a big deal any more - and a front-facing video camera. Oh, and a choice of two colours. Black or white. That might blow Henry Ford’s mind but arguably it’s hardly major progress.

Hang on a moment, though.

Yesterday’s presentation didn’t just reveal the iPad 2. There’s a ‘Smart Cover’ that holds itself in place with magnets, keeps the screen clean and saves the battery. It comes in a choice of colours and sets you back anything from $39 to $69, but that’s only money. And don’t put your wallet away yet, because there’s an HDMI adaptor that lets you put your iPad display on your HDTV.

Then there are two new iPad-specific video and music-editing apps: iMovie and GarageBand, both already well-loved by Mac owners. $4.99 each, since you ask.

Which all makes me think that Steve Jobs’s line about the iPad 2 - it “moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again” - isn’t particularly true.

But what Apple has done is give its customers more reasons to buy and use an iPad. It’s removed some of the barriers to purchase. And it’s provided a reason to upgrade.

The iPad 2 isn’t a new tablet. It’s an upgrade. A very attractive upgrade nonetheless. And, some would suggest, it paves the way for iPad 3 shortly before Christmas.

Author: The Fonecast
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