It’s amazing that not even a year ago, when Apple’s magical iPad first slid down from the heavens, comedians around the world chimed in about the unfortunately named device. Nobody cared about the technology or what it did. We only wanted to laugh that somebody over at Apple actually allowed their first tablet computer to be called ‘iPad,’ which obviously paved the way for countless NSFW vagina jokes.
Well guess what, everybody. Now Apple is laughing all the way to the bank, having sold more than 14 million iPads so far, more than all tablet PCs sold to date. As Steve Jobs said today in a special press event, the iPad is the company’s third “post-PC blockbuster”—meaning the first non computer device to become an icon. First the iPod, then the iPhone, and now the iPad. Apple has sold so many of these devices that Jobs gloated today that “We’re in a position where most of our revenue comes from these products.”
But who is using the iPad? People with iPhones? Apple Fan Boys? Why didn’t the thing flop, like the 2005 Motorola ROKR with iTunes? Does anybody remember that one? And the question I’ve been wondering all along: what makes the iPad any different than, say, the iPhone? Are the two devices too similar?
Today, Apple unveiled the iPad 2, which will come in black or white models for AT&T and Verizon. The new and improved device, which clocks in at 33% thinner than the original iPad—how do they do it!—comes with a new A5 chip, which Jobs promises will be much faster. There are also Dual Core Processors and front and rear facing cameras, all for the low price of $499 for the WiFi only model.
But for its svelte shape and sexy speeds, the iPad is not actually about the device itself. It’s about the Apps, 65,000 of which—65,000!— have been specifically created for the iPad. As tablet computers go, Apple holds a full 90% market share, so naturally other technology giants are scurrying to get a piece of the pie. Last year Apple called 2010 the “Year of the iPad.” Today, Apple humorously christened 2011 the “Year of the copy cats.”
The word in the technology sphere is that the tablet computer heralds the death of the smartphone, and the smartphone in turn trumps the PC. We’re becoming more and more mobile, and pretty soon we’ll all have WiFi 802.11n chips implanted into our brains. Wedge Partners Analyst Brian Blair guestimates that Apple will sell 48 million iPads in 2011, and that’s not even including the 100 million+ iPhones the company will sell, especially after the much-anticipated potentially 4G LTE 5th version goes live later this summer.
That’s the brilliance of Apple. They’ve created an entire industry around two things: an idea, the App, and a single device—the 5 to 10 inch tablet computer, neither a smartphone, nor a laptop. This has forced other companies like Samsung, Motorola, Blackberry, and even HTC to drop tablet computers of their own.
Verizon debuted the Motorola XOOM last week, an Android-powered Smart Tablet with a ten-inch screen, camera, and which will run on Verizon’s speedy 4G LTE network.
Never first but also not one to be left behind, AT&T recently released the Motorola Atrix, another Android powered smartphone that can be plugged into a special dock which basically turns it into a laptop. This particular device is revolutionary because of its powerful processors and huge memory. But it’s also the first smartphone tablet hybrid.
And just a few weeks ago at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, HTC announced the HTC Flyer, their version of a 7-inch touch screen device with a camera and HSPA+ support.
My problem with the iPad has always been that it just doesn’t seem differentiated enough from the iPhone. That thing was truly revolutionary, unlike any piece of technology available when it came out. I currently own three iPhones, two iPods, and a MacBook Pro. What am I going to do with an iPad?
In the race to create the World’s Greatest Tablet Computer, who will come out on top in 2011? And, even more frighteningly, what’s the fourth post-PC blockbuster that Apple will cook up?