Why the iPad 2 is only a minor upgrade, and why the Xoom/PlayBook/TouchPad are toast

"Why wasn't the iPad 2 a more impressive upgrade?" This is a question that I've heard a lot since yesterday's iPad 2 announcement. The short answer is that it didn't need to be any better - it's still more than good enough to toast the competition.

"Why wasn't the iPad 2 a more impressive upgrade?" This is a question that I've heard a lot since yesterday's iPad 2 announcement. The short answer is that it didn't need to be any better - it's still more than good enough to toast the competition.

The iPad 2 has three main competitors - The Motorola Xoom, the RIM/Blackberry PlayBook and the HP TouchPad, powered by Android 3.0, Blackberry Tablet OS and webOS 3.0 respectively. They all sport a dual-core CPU, all have screens around about the 1024 x 768 region (the Xoom screen is 1280 x 800 while the PlayBook has a 1024 x 600 screen). All have pretty much the same storage capacity options, cameras and connectivity.

So why will the iPad 2 toast the competition?

Well, first off, the iPad is a recognized brand name. More importantly than that, iPad is becomings a generic catch-all term that the public use for tablets (much like iPod became a catch-all for MP3 players). Never underestimate the power of being first and being able to shape the market, and the minds of the buyers. Apple has done this in many ways, defining the price point, size, capacities, and so on.

The iPad is also already on the scene, and has been for almost a year. The Xoom is just out, the TouchPad will be out sometime this summer, same with the PlayBook. These devices were a response to the original iPad, and two won't be out until after the iPad 2 ships. That's just crazy.

Then there's apps. Apple has over 65,000 apps available for the iPad 2, not counting all the iPhone apps that will also run on the tablet. That's a massive supporting ecosystem. How many apps are there available for the Xoom, Touchpad and PlayBook? Well, there's a small handful for Xoom but no developer ecosystem. There are none for the TouchPad or PlayBook, and there's no developer ecosystem worth mentioning either.

So why didn't Apple carry out a major iPad upgrade, adding a hi-res "retina" display, or USB/Thunderbolt port or make the chassis out of some exotic liquid-metal alloy? The answer is quite simple - because it didn't need to have any of these features. There's not enough competition out there to warrant Apple doing anything that puts too much pressure on profit margins. The iPad 2 upgrade, put simply, is good enough.

Unless the competition can get their act together, not only will 2011 be the year of the iPad 2, but 2012 will be the year of the iPad 3.

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