March 08, 2012

Article at Hydrapinion

Apple's iPad 3 launch has surprised nobody – but that's how they like it these days

Call me sentimental, but I used to love the days when we would stay up for an Apple announcement – or, for those less-than-hardcore fans, wake up early – to find out what amazing magic the guys in Cupertino had in store for us. Maybe it's the absence of Steve, or maybe it's just that we're jaded from years of being impressed – but these days, the sizzle just isn't there.

Or maybe it was; after all, I wasn't at Apple's launch a few hours ago, and without a video feed it's hard to judge the level of excitement from caffeine-deficient announcers who are dutifully live-blogging Tim Cook's every utterance. But I imagine most bloggers who were following the announcement were quietly muttering to themselves as Cook went down the checklist of features that were rumoured months ago.

Higher-resolution screen? Check.

Better camera? Check.

Faster graphics? Check (although the extent of this is being disputed).

4G LTE support? Check.

Faster processor? No… no, wait, it has one of those too – although it's interesting that they've gone with the CPU nomenclature A5X rather than A6, as if to tease us that something even bigger is in research labs and will soon be revealed as even more magical and more revolutionary than ever.

But Apple wouldn't do that to us, now, would it? Of course not.

The funny thing about iPads is that Apple no longer has to justify what it's doing; it just has to feed the rumour mill with a few well-placed sources, then watch the "leaks" circulate around the globe and see what people think. While I'm not sure they would change the next iPad's design just because a few people whinged about one or more proposed features, they must find it gratifying to know that there are ready buyers out there in the market.

Of course there are; these days, the suggestion that the iPad would do anything but fly off the shelves at a breakneck pace would be utter heresy. It's iPad's world, and little that the competition can do is going to change that.

There is, of course, value in consistency: people have already shelled out lots of money for their iPad accessories and Apple's manufacturing partners have shelled out lots to make them. Any substantial change in the iPad's design would have massive flow-on effects – and Apple long ago got smart enough to know that those effects are only justifiable for a very good reason. That's why it decided not to rush to a bigger screen with the iPhone 4S: it didn't want to strand all that investment before it had to.

Its Apple TV update is nice, of course, but mainly a feature bump and – interestingly for Australians – a price reduction, from $129 to $109. That's nice too; it now costs about the same as taking a family of four to a movie at the theatres.

On the whole, however, this launch features little that's dramatically different – nor should it ever have. Apple knows it's on a winner and it's even keen to keep its software platform consistent; note that there's no mention of iOS 6, which by tradition should be emerging in beta soon and be released around the time of Apple's mid-year WorldWide Developers Conference (purists might note that Mac OS X 10.8 might as well be called iOS 6, but I digress).

So, the new iPad – I notice nobody referred to it as the iPad 3 during the Macworld liveblog, at least – will hit shelves and surprise nobody. As Cook suggested, it's just another iPad – but better. But we already knew it would be – and I suspect that, based on the specs, many people made their buying decisions long ago.Maybe we just don't really care about surprises anymore. And maybe we shouldn't, either.

Certainly, the untold number of companies, universities, schools and government departments snapping up these things in their thousands wouldn't want too much to change, too quickly; that gets messy. Change hardware or software specs too frequently in a corporate environment, and you end up with – well, you end up with HP. And we all know how that ends.

The iPad 3 floated, the real question now is…

Oh, who am I kidding? Now that it's out, nobody's going to be talking about the iPad 3 anymore. The real question is "what will be in the iPad 4?" It's all going to be about the next iPad, which I hear will have… um… Well, I can't really say. But I sure can make stuff up.

Can you too? What would you add to the iPad 4?

[HY12] [Original here]