apple’s latest event was more than just about the new iPad

So the Apple event finally happened, putting to rest rumors and speculations about a certain ‘iPad 3′. And surprise, Tim Cook chose to defy one and all by calling it something different altogether – “the new iPad”. How original!

Unlike some of the most memorable editions in the past with Steve Jobs, the March 2012 event was on relatively predictable lines, and not very different in feel from the iPhone 4s launch in late 2011. Nonetheless, the company made all tech enthusiasts, journalists, and fanboys (including cynical ones like me) across the globe stay riveted to live text updates on leading tech websites as the plot unfolded.

Here’s a roundup—with my opinion—of what the event unveiled in its elegantly pompous, and yet unimitated, style.

The whole thing was like a well choreographed dance (albeit to the tunes of Adele this time) that reaffirmed faith in the behemoth’s still nimble innards. The absolutely synchronized and punctual Houdini act by the website/store, and the seamlessness of all the upgrades screamed Apple from the word go.

The company announced the new iPad with a retina display, which packs in far too many pixels than one thought was possible (that’s what they said). But then, the modern tech consumer is a pixel-whore (or at least made out to be). Even if we wonder whether we need them, we do seem to need them. Apparently, this was the highlight of the evening. Yes thank you, so let’s move on. The optics got a facelift, although I still question the rationale of clicking pictures with a book-like slab instead of a camera or even a phone. The processor upgrade to the A5X was expected as well, and so was the 4G-LTE compatibility (an iPad 3 armed with 4G and not just 3G could have been confusing – was that the reason for the creative naming?). Anyway, once you think of all these power-hungry features, the battery life being comparable to the iPad 2 is a nice touch, but leaves one wanting more. With some of the new ultrabooks touching 8-9 hours, one would ideally demand more from a tablet. But then, one look at the closest competition (is there any?) and you’d probably feel at ease. Other minor things included the retention of the dock connector – thank heavens! The nominal increase in girth and weight was rather unexpected, so Apple did manage to surprise on this account, unlike its past track record of making its components feel as claustrophobic as it could.

The new dictation capability on the keypad sounds promising, but the absence of a full-blown Siri is disappointing, and yet not surprising. How else do you think we will get a “the new iPad S” later this year?

Yet another predictable outcome was the new iPad pricing and the associated iPad 2 price drop, followed by the absence of the 32 and 64 GB models from the store. It simply means that if you are keen on saving a few bucks and feel that the new iPad is not the massive leap that you wished it to be, rush to the physical store nearby and get your iPad 2 before the pending inventories run out (a sense of deja vu sweeps over as I recall my iPhone 4 32 GB purchase after three days of the iPhone 4S launch).

Over the past year, Apple’s focus on fostering the iOS ecosystem has become quite evident, to put it mildly. While my expectations of a significant upgrade to the iOS 5.1 were crushed, the company stayed true to its strategy by dishing out some of its blockbuster software suites like iWork and iLife on the iOS. Yes, please note these are available on the iOS, and not just on the new iPad, which means you can use all of these on your existing iPad 2. All the fancy iMovie and iPhoto demos yesterday morning were not exclusive to the new iPad – something the end-user should take note of when deciding which iPad version to buy. However, if you take the iPad out of this equation, it clearly shows Apple’s focus on generating a larger share of its revenue pie from non-hardware sources. Still clearer was the company’s push toward taking on its arch rivals (you know who I’m talking about!) in multimedia editing, among other things. As far as the whole video gaming extravaganza is concerned, I’ll choose to stay away and let the professional/casual gamers decide what the new developments mean to them. As a neutral no-brainer, I’d say the enhanced display and processing naturally translate into crisper gaming. Commercially speaking, the new games being exclusive to the new iPad will hardly be a game-changing differentiator for a general tech user.

In continuation to the software story, Apple chose to reveal the new Apple TV ahead of the anticipated iPad (possibly to avoid having to utter the cliched “last but not the least” phrase). No real beef-ups here, except for the 1080p resolution upgrade. Being able to get your iTunes playlists through the iCloud is hardly an engineering feat.

Don’t get me wrong! I remain an Apple fan, since I bought my first device 6 months ago (I guess that puts me at the cusp of the late adopters and laggards). Nonetheless, as a tech observer and user, I believe that exponential innovations are an exception and not a norm. With Steve Jobs’ larger than life image and Apple’s record of wowing and wooing, we have gotten used to expecting the world every time. What still wows me about the company is its ability to still be larger than the sum of all its parts that seem to function in harmony despite all the chaos around. Despite all the skepticism, nobody can deny the frenzy that awaits March 16 when the new iPad will be made available to the public.

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  • Vikas Marwaha

    Well put Mr. Cynical Apple fanboy!
    I in fact completely appreciate the marketing genius of Apple. The way hype is created and incremental improvement is made perceive as an upgrade is brilliant and with this the story of the product life cycle (both iPad and iPhone) continues.
    Just to add an observation : no mention of iPods whatsoever and focus on Apple Tv says a bit about future strategy. Add this to a cheaper ipad2, they are going to give amazon a run for their money!

  • Gaurav Agrawal

    Oh absolutely, iPod has likely lived its tenure. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised with a downscaled version of the iPhone that is more of an entry-level smartphone combined with a media player.

    iCloud as a converged media and storage solution with multiple interacting devices and Apple TV as the hub of home entertainment is the way it is headed.

    As far as Amazon is concerned, they have all the reasons to be concerned. The whole iBooks revamp, the push toward consumer cloud, and the cheaper iPad2 will be giving them sleepless nights. For all you know, Apple may be planning an iPad mini later this year at $200 price point.

  • Kamal Ganeriwala

    Possibly one of the most level-toned and sensible (read: non-hysterical) write-ups on the ‘iPad event’. Agree with you that both the launch events in the post-Jobs era (iPhone 4S when everyone was expecting iPhone 5, and this slightly improved ‘new iPad’) have not quite lived up to the drama and excitement of the earlier launches, Siri notwithstanding. Personally, I was disappointed at the predictability of the whole affair, and the “innovative” nomenclature of the device!
    All said and done, it’s a little surprising that the iPad has no real challengers in its 10-inch tablet segment yet – while the iPhone is facing competition from Samsung Galaxy S series in several markets, no one apart from Apple seems to have cracked the tablet formula yet. The Kindle Fire clearly competes in a different (7-inch) segment and has not been able to dent the iPad’s sales figures, inspite of its reasonably successful run so far (probably driven by its low price-point).
    Great post, and do keep writing!

  • Gaurav Agrawal

    Glad you liked the post, Kamal.

    As far as competition is concerned, the likes of Kindle Fire and Galaxy Note have definitely made worthy attempts to create sub-segments, as opposed to being the me-too contenders in segments established by the likes of Apple. And still, they are nowhere close to replicating that same success. If Apple were to enter the ‘mini-tab’ space later this year, one can almost sense the outcome.

    All said and done, disappointments notwithstanding, the online stock of the new iPad has already been lapped up within the first 3 days of the launch. Wonder how long Apple can sustain this euphoria around their launches.

  • Gaurav Agrawal

    And now that I finally have my hands on one, I can safely say that most of what I mentioned still stands good. Yes, am beaming like a baby who just got a new toy :)