iPad 2 Arrives
by Mark W. Hibben
Year of the What?
As expected, Apple announced a second generation iPad on March 2, 2011. Less expected was the hosting of the event by Steve Jobs, who apparently just couldn’t resist appearing with the New Baby, proud father that he is. He looked thin, but he seemed very energized for the day’s presentation. Before I go into a recap and commentary on the day’s presentations, let me summarize where iPad 2 is relative to predictions I made back on December 12, 2010 when I wrote The Shape of iPads to Come:
1. Name, iPad 2, check
2. Dual core ARM processor, check.
3. Dual front and back cameras with Facetime, check.
4. High resolution screen, nope. Same old iPad screen, ugh.
All in all, I think I did pretty well. The big surprise was the lack of an enhanced resolution screen. Given how much Apple talked up the "Retina Display" for the iPhone 4, one would have thought that something similar was in the offing for iPad 2. In fact, this is the one key feature of the iPad 2 that I find truly mysterious. Certainly, there's no technical reason why Apple could not have chosen a higher resolution display, so I have to assume the reason was financial: Apple clearly wanted to hold the price points of the original iPad, and going to a higher resolution screen would have made that impossible. Still, it was a disappointment.
iPad 2 Predictions vs. Features at a glance:
|iPad 2 Property or Feature||12/13/10 Prediction||Reality|
|Name||iPad 2||iPad 2|
|iOS 4.2 Upgrade||No “significant” upgrade||iOS 4.3|
|Display Resolution||1600 x 1200 pixels||1024 x 768 pixels|
|Removable flash media||No||No|
|Video Output||Airplay at 720p||Airplay at 720p, HDMI at 1080p with accessory|
|HDMI Connector||No||No, but available with accessory|
|Cameras||Dual, Front VGA, Back HD 720p capable, 5 Mpix still||Dual, Front VGA, Back HD 720p capable, still photos with unknown resolution|
|Facetime||Supported, but only over WiFi||Supported, but only over WiFi|
|Three axis gyro||No Prediction||Gyro similar to iPhone 4|
|Form Factor||No Prediction||33% thinner, slightly lighter at 1.3 vs. 1.5 pounds|
|iPad 2 Cover||No Prediction||Magnetically retained Smart Cover|
|iPad 2 SOC Processor||Dual core ARM Cortex-A9 design licensed from Samsung||Dual core ARM design, source unknown, specific features unknown|
|Wireless support||No Prediction||AT&T and Verizon models|
The pixilation of the screen is clearly visible, and makes iPad less desirable as an e-book than most dedicated e-readers, as well as less desirable to watch HD content. The HDMI video output, through a separate adapter, was clearly intended to compensate for the low screen resolution, but it’s not really enough. Apple should have offered a higher resolution screen version of iPad as an option for those willing to pay a bit more. Or perhaps this is a supply chain issue where Apple needs to sell off the current inventory of 1024 x 760 screens before they can take the iPad 2 to a higher resolution. If that’s the case, we might see a mid-year product update of the iPad 2.
Jobs spent the first 8 minutes going over 2010 iPad history. Apple sold 15 million iPads in 2010 and has sold over 100 million iPhones. Jobs claimed that iPad sales exceed that of all Tablet PCs ever made, and the iPad has generated US$9.5B in revenue. The lion’s share of Apple revenue now comes from what Jobs calls “post-PC” devices such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
iPad 2 Unveiled
Jobs never misses a chance to dis competitors, and he began the iPad 2 discussion by posing the rhetorical question “Is this the year of the copycats?” because of the large number of tablet announcements. Jobs wants to obscure a number of facts. He wants to discount the effectiveness of the competing products, but in many respects, these products, such as the Motorola Xoom, are already ahead of the iPad 2 on a hardware level, as in the Xoom’s 1280 x 800 pixel display. The fact is, this is the year of the iPad competitors, although it remains to be seen how effective they will be. Apple may have calculated correctly that consumers will notice the relative bulk of iPad’s competitors more than the iPad’s screen resolution. Also, Apple is clearly out in front in OS and software development, given the rough edges of Android 3.0, but Android continues to gain market share, and Windows Phone 7 may still pose a threat now that Microsoft and Nokia have teamed up. It appears that the War for Mobile Internet Supremacy will be a protracted one.
iOS 4.3 Update
Two new accessories were shown, the HDMI video adapter and the Smart cover. The HDMI video adapter allows the iPad to be connected to the HDMI digital video input available on most HD TVs. The adapter provides a mirror of the iPad screen at up to 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixel) resolution. One thing that wasn’t clear is how the smaller resolution of the iPad screen is scaled up to 1080p, and I’ll be interested in looking at this in closer detail once the hardware is available.
The other accessory is the so-called Smart Cover, which is a cover for the iPad 2 screen that is held in place by hinged magnets. It’s a clever idea, but it ignores the fact that the aluminum body of the iPad needs protection as much as the screen, if not more. I’ve found that a foam-padded slip case (actually meant for netbooks) to be the most convenient and safe way to carry around the iPad.
The app lead that Apple enjoys is enormous, partly because Apple develops some of the best software available for their own systems, whether Mac OS or iOS. iMovie and Garage Band for iPad are great examples of Apple software prowess. It’s hard to imagine a third party developer even coming close to these in terms of development investment. I have to wonder if Apple actually makes money on these.
Apple had already developed a version of iMovie for iPhone 4, but this new app takes advantage of the larger screen as well as faster dual core processor of the A5 on the iPad 2. Apple is demonstrating that the iPad 2 can be a content creation device as well as a content consuming device.
Apple showcases a mobile app tour de force in the Garage Band on iPad 2 demonstration. The touch interface allows things that are currently impossible with a computer keyboard, mouse or even most instruments. For instance, there's a sliding frequency capability when you drag your finger along a synthesizer "keyboard" that makes the synthesizer sound like a Theremin. And the synthesized keyboards and drums are velocity sensitive through the iPad 2 accelerometer. Plus there's great editing and composition capability. I'm definitely getting this. There's nothing else even close.