Is the iPad 2 a lost opportunity for Apple to blow rival slates out of the water?
Apple's slimmer, faster iPad 2 was demoed at a UK launch event in London
Photo: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com
The iPad 2 has arrived, bringing a faster processor, a more slender form factor, and front and rear cameras. There's also an iOS update bringing FaceTime video-calling to the tablet.
In the days leading up to the launch of the iPad 2, analysts were predicting an evolutionary rather than revolutionary update of Apple's first tablet. So what did analysts make of the real iPad 2?
Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps described the roster of iPad 2 updates and tweaks as carefully targeted to enhance the personal connection tablet users feel towards their slate. The iPad 2's thinner and lighter form factor and the range of coloured bevels and cases are designed to please tablet users on an emotional level, she wrote in a blog post.
"Apple understands desire," blogged Rotman Epps. "In a post-PC world, consumers have a more intimate relationship with their devices. They use them on the couch and in bed and not just at their desk. They show their devices to other people... Fostering that desire is a smart way to differentiate your piece of glass from other pieces of glass that perform essentially the same functions."
Other parts of Apple's product strategy help to cement this emotional connection, said Rotman Epps - pointing to Apple's app ecosystem, with some 65,000 apps now optimised to work on the iPad, and its dedicated retail stores which offer on-tap support and service to Apple consumers.
"The competing products we've seen announced so far from Motorola, RIM, HP, and others, while impressive, have fatally flawed price and distribution strategies," the analyst added. "But, the tablet wars are far from over. We have yet to see a play from potential disruptors like Amazon, who could enter the tablet market at a lower price point, or Sony and Microsoft, who could offer radically differentiated value propositions. Things could get rowdy. But for now, Apple still defines the tablet market, with a product consumers will desire at a price that's hard to beat."
Analyst house In-Stat said the iPad 2's faster processor is the most significant update, flagging up Apple's claim of twice the CPU performance of the previous A4 processor and nine times the graphics performance.
The analyst described the other tweaks as merely "a typical upgrade" - bringing consumer requested features such as cameras and different colours.
Comparing the iPad 2 with one of the highest spec Android-based tablets - Motorola's Xoom - the analyst said...
...there is not much to choose between them, with a few pros and cons on either side.
"When you compare the iPad 2 with the most recent competitor, the Xoom from Motorola, you end up with two devices that are very similar all the way down to the basic specifications of the processors," said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat in a statement. "The Xoom has the upgradable options and Flash support, while the iPad 2 has a lower price tag and a more robust software environment, including both the OS and the applications."
In-Stat predicts a surge of more than 100 similar tablets as electronics and mobile makers seek to enter the tablet market quickly, but the analyst house expects future generations of slates to begin to offer more differentiation in form factor, features and apps.
For analyst house Informa Telecoms & Media, the iPad 2 represents a lost opportunity for Apple to cement its lead in the tablet market - describing the slate as being light on new features. "The iPad 2 is more of an iPad 1.5, with the real innovations still to come in future iterations," said senior analyst Gavin Byrne, in a statement. "In a market where Apple's Android-based competitors have had to wait for a tablet-optimised version of Android - Honeycomb - it seems that Apple has taken its foot off the innovation accelerator."
Despite a low-key update to the iPad, Informa is still predicting Apple will double its tablet sales with the iPad 2 - shipping more than 30 million slates this year, twice the number it shipped in 2010.
Moreover, Apple's competitors will have to wait years to catch the iPad maker, according to analyst Ovum, which noted that Steve Jobs' company enjoyed 90 per cent of the tablet market in 2010 - leaving Google Android-based slates with just 10 per cent.
While slates based on Android OS will gain ground this year, the analyst reckons they won't overtake the iOS market share for up to four years. By 2015, Ovum predicts Android will have 36 per cent of the tablet market to Apple's 35 per cent. Worldwide tablet shipments will number some 150 million units by then.