Apple, the new iPad, and being ‘sanely great’
Sometimes it’s best to start with the obvious. The “new” iPad announced Wednesday will sell like mad when it goes on sale next Friday. So confident is Apple in what it isn’t calling the iPad 3 that it didn’t even bother to give it a special name. It’s just iPad, even though there is a first-generation iPad (a retronym, of course) and an iPad 2. When you’ve achieved one-name status — Bono, Cher, Liberace — you don’t give that up lightly.
The new iPad has a bunch of hardware and design upgrades that do make sense, even though the impetus for incorporating them may or may not have been to play catch-up with some Android tablets that nobody is buying.
It’s nice to see 4G make its first appearance on an Apple device — one wonders why this wasn’t possible on the iPhone 4S that came out not that terribly long ago. This exponentially better network standard isn’t widely available yet, but where it exists. it spoils you quickly.
Better camera, new iSight on the back, HD video, retina display, quad-core graphics acceleration, check, check and double-check.
But it all seems so … predictable. The immensely insightful Sharah Rottman Epps says of the new iPad: “A Gut Renovation Masquerades As Incremental Innovation,” and she’s not someone you disagree with lightly. Yet there’s no magic in this newness. Apple really is only shoring up a sure thing with features first introduced by considerably less successful competitors and Apple itself on other devices.
I was hoping, especially in the first big product rollout of the post-Jobs era, for One Last Thing from the Jobs era. Instead of surprising us with an unpredictable Bobby Fischer-like sequence of moves to win, this update feels like Apple is playing for a draw.
Why not, one might argue. Apple really doesn’t have anything to prove right now. The iPad already has the kind of market share in tablets that Google, which is virtually synonymous with search, has in search.
I was hoping for something entirely different from Tim Cook, whose black shirt was in keeping with the Jobs tradition, but whose preference for a collar — albeit not buttoned up — was perhaps a modest declaration of independence.
My chief lament: No Siri, the imperfect but powerful voice-controlled personal assistant introduced in the iPhone 4S. Porting Siri to the iPad and granting app developers access to it would have been insanely great.
But I’m biased, having been seduced by her charms. Even more than the iPhone, the iPad is becoming basic kit in every industry — the military, aviation, medicine, restaurants, retail. Reliable voice control is such a powerful force multiplier that Apple wouldn’t even have to hype it much to make the case that it’s the most important development in computing since the mouse — and infinitely more versatile.
Apple usually either produces something insanely great, or makes us believe — through that famous Jobsian reality distortion field — that it has. But the new iPad is handsome and respectable and admirable. It’s not a rebel.
That doesn’t mean Apple has got fat and lazy as it rolls around in piles of cash and watches its stock price reliably test historical levels day after day. But the iPad event was sobering instead of intoxicating. “Sanely great” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple event as an image of the old iPad is projected on the screen behind him, in San Francisco, California March 7, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith