Apple's iPad 3: redefining 'different'

Apple's iPad 3: redefining 'different'

Summary: By the time you read this, you'll already have decided what you think of the iPad 3 - or iPad, as Apple calls it. Apple says that it "reinvents the category", using the following adjectives in the first four paragraphs of its press release alone: stunning, amazing, amazing, amazing, unbelievable, incredible, unbelievable, incomparable, powerful, incredible, superb, stunning, incredible.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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By the time you read this, you'll already have decided what you think of the iPad 3 - or iPad, as Apple calls it. Apple says that it "reinvents the category", using the following adjectives in the first four paragraphs of its press release alone: stunning, amazing, amazing, amazing, unbelievable, incredible, unbelievable, incomparable, powerful, incredible, superb, stunning, incredible.

You may agree, cursing the English language as you do so for not having more words fit to describe this latest miracle. You may think it's another of Apple's incremental upgrades, and "faster and prettier" are all that's needed from the dictionary.

New iPad

Does the 'new iPad' reinvent the category? Or is it just faster and prettier? Image credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET News

What the new iPad isn't, is different. That sums up the whole launch, where the greatest change the post-Jobs company dare try was playing Adele instead of Dylan. The same price points were wheeled out, squeezing as much gold out of flash memory as the Vikings ever did from the monasteries. Minor product, major product, bunch of demonstrations? Check. Another huge blast of marketing? On its way. It's ironic that it took so long to get cut and paste onto the iPhone, given their central role in Apple's product refresh strategy.

Given the incredible, incomparable, superb, stunning, etc, success Apple's had with that strategy, it's not hard to see why tampering might seem unwise. But this is the last time they'll have the luxury of not even pretending to try.

The original iPad was launched in 2010, three years after the iPhone. We can reasonably expect there to be a new class of device next year, not just because of Apple's fondness for following the Jobsian playbook but because the iPad 3 represents a number of evolutionary dead-ends — pinnacles, if you prefer.

For a start — the screen. It is a thing of beauty and, until everyone else gets one that's just as beautiful, the new iPad's major grace. It is so high resolution that the eye cannot distinguish the pixels in normal use. So, what do you do for an encore? 3D? Haptics? A screen on either side? It's a measure of the lack of options that these have all been seriously proposed in the rumour mill as sensible things for Apple to do: what it can't do is make a screen that looks any nicer. It's done.

Likewise the networking. 70+ Mbps, Apple claims, on the right LTE network. You won't get that. But you'll also be waiting a very long time for anything that's even nominally faster: the switch from 3G to 4G will be with us for a while.

The interface? It hasn't changed that much since the first iPhone. Apple got that right. There isn't much to fix that isn't fiddling for its own sake: voice, maybe, with Siri left in reserve for next time.

However you cut it, there's not much 'more of the same' to come. What happens next will have to look different, behave differently, do a different job.

That will be Apple's first real test under new management. If the next launch is another cut-and-paste of this one, then legitimate questions will be raised about the company's willingness and ability to decide what it wants to be next, to evolve in a changing world. There wasn't even the slightest hint of that this time round: not one.

As someone once said, think different.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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6 comments
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  • How about the flexi version that you can drop on concrete? I'm sure the things will keep getting more and more powerful. How about high end PC graphics, gaming and design capabilities in a couple of years? All crammed into the same form factor.
    roger andre
  • I'm not exactly sure what the writer was expecting, what can Apple do to reinvent the already perfect device. As with all consumer products they get better at each iteration, and this is no exception. Here in the UK we are getting much more product for the same or lower prices, what is not to like? Why does the next iPad have to be different or Apple will fail? Are you just after a cosmectic change just for the sake of it. Your post is actually just another rant at a very successful product, it adds no value to the discussion nor helps buyers make a decision. Why will there be a new class of device next year? The iPhone is still the device it was when it was launched with the same incremental improvements, it will always be an iPhone as an iPad will always be an iPad. Why will it have to "do a different job" when we want it to do what it does now. Silly article, no understanding of the device.
    anonymous
  • Ian - the key is in the phrase "to evolve in a changing world". IBM made very good computers which it didn't change very much, and had a stranglehold on business computing for decades, but it didn't spot the rise of the mini-computer and got badly mauled. I know Apple is trying to close down the competition through patents and other intellectual property lawsuits, but holding back progress like that only works for so long. Sooner or later, Apple will need a new idea.
    rupert.goodwins9
  • Apple could do something innovative like the Asus Transformer or the Aus Padfone, where one device works as a mobile phone, tablet and clamshell-style laptop (and where you get three batteries so it runs for ages).

    Apple could even get Asus to make them, since it has made Macs in the past and its Pegatron spin-off is now making iPhones. It's also a higher quality manufacturer than Foxconn, which competes on volume and price.

    But of course, there's still the opportunity to sell iPad buyers a fourth device in four years, by adding an SD slot, miniHDMI, Thunderbolt, Siri or whatever....
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jack: And, don't forget, a whole bunch of new accessories because they've changed the connector again...
    Manek Dubash
  • I think Jack's on the right lines. The next incremental (but important) advance could come as a result of two things: faster processors, and adding a Thunderbolt connector. By adding Thunderbolt, you enable an ecosystem of docking devices, so that the tablet can become the brain of a desktop PC, etc. Faster processors would give the tablet enough oomph to power such a setup, with power management spinning down CPU cores when not docked. The proprietary connector has the advantage (for Apple) that peripherals must be licensed but the more open format connector would encourage more innovation.
    slabman-a73ad