The new version of Apple's media tablet has corrected the iPad's worst wrong: the low-resolution screen. In addition, the new iPad added support for 4G/LTE connectivity, gained superior processor and camera as well as added some minor new software features. Now, it looks like the new device is a radical evolution of the iPad, not a revolution. But should we expect one?
The Always-Online Era
We have seamlessly entered a new era of personal computers: the era of always-connected devices and all-day online computing. In fact, a lot of cheers regarding Apple coming from all around the industry are because the company has managed to be the first with a solid platform for always-connected devices. We are still in the beginning of the Internet-everywhere era and it will take several generations of hardware and many years to create a ubiquitous always-connected platform with a broad range of devices. Apple is somewhat ahead here with iPhone, iPad, iCloud and Macintosh and will offer an even better platform with its OS X "Mountain Lion" operating system.
Different generations of always-connected devices will have different features, capabilities, types of hardware, types of software and so on:
- First generation: consumer products connected to the web most of their time. These devices allow to perform basic functions, browse the Internet, access email, social networks, listen to music, watch movies, play games, etc. The overall experience is somewhat limited and truly high-performance is not required.
- Second generation: products with consumer and business functionality that are always connected to the web. These devices should not only feature basic PC functions, but make all types of data (with some software-related exceptions) available via the cloud on all devices everywhere in all formats. Performance is gaining importance and iOS-like pseudo multi-tasking is evidently not enough. The second-gen always-connected electronics should also start to include peripherals like printers, scanners, cameras, as well as consumer electronics like TV-sets, Blu-ray players, etc. Naturally, a very high-performance battery is compulsory.
- Third generation: all devices, from smartphone to tablet to notebook to desktop can run the same software (with some UI-related exceptions) and access all the data from the cloud. There should be no compromises in terms of feature-set. Indeed, the third generation of always connected devices is somewhat a compute continuum, where only a form-factor is a limitation, which will further erode in devices of future generations with the help of new technologies. The third breed of always-online electronics naturally includes not only compute devices themselves, but a broad range of consumer devices as well (with drivers located in the cloud, not anywhere locally).
Apple iOS: Good, But Improvements Needed
Although Apple has created a very competitive eco-system for consumers, it still lacks numerous important essentials across software, security and features when it comes to business eco-system. But Apple's iOS and OS X platforms are getting better. Moreover, Apple certainly understands: when it comes to particular devices, they definitely have to be very competitive separately and gadgets like the iPhone 4S and iPad 2/3 are.
Sometimes, in order to make them competitive in terms of pricing, Apple sacrifices some elements crucial for the whole platform. For example, with 2048*1536 resolution screen the new iPad obviously needs more than 16GB of storage, yet Apple continues to offer such model; in order to use the new iPad everywhere to browse the Internet, the tablet needs to have built-in [preferably 4G/LTE] modem, but Apple continues to sell versions with Wi-Fi only.
With the new third-generation iPad Apple visibly gets closer to the second generation of always connected electronics. Unfortunately, its software still lacks a lot of things that are needed to make the iPad a truly business/productivity oriented tool. While the company clearly has made a great progress: two years after the original iPad launch, the iPad 2 is full of nice productivity software; the iPad still [in its iOS 5.1 form] lacks proper cross-app multi-tasking.
To sum everything up, the new iPad connects the major dots: it has high-quality screen, nice software, 4G/LTE, proper camera (albeit I doubt many iPad users use built-in camera without flash and not the one on the iPhone), iCloud (which has pretty limited functionality right now due to 5GB restriction in free mode) and more powerful A5X system-on-chip.
The high-definition screen opens doors to better quality video and games on tablets, improved processor enables more demanding applications, 4G/LTE unlocks high-speed Internet everywhere and iCloud seamlessly syncs all the devices between themselves. Sounds good enough?
The third-generation iPad without a doubt has ways to improve and in most cases those improvements can be made via software updates. Perhaps, it will take a major update or two to add the right multitasking to the iOS, but that probably can be done eventually. What is important here is that with all the evolutionary improvements of the new iPad, the platform can now get revolutionary different [e.g., become the second-generation always-connected device] not because of hardware, but because of software updates. The fourth-generation Apple iPad will indisputably get even better in terms of hardware, but from now on, the software defines revolutionary features.