After months of conjecture – actually, after almost 12 months of conjecture – this morning we woke up with an iPad 2. On the stage at Yerba Buena Theatre in San Francisco, Steve Jobs (whose presence was a relief for every Apple Fancier) wasn’t talking about revolution.
The ‘magical and revolutionary’ tagline for the first iPad almost certainly wasn’t mentioned simply because the iPad 2 doesn’t represent a radical reimagining of the tablet. Instead, it’s a careful refining of the device’s existing successes. In short, it’s evolution not… o I can’t say it.
Already, the great majority of conversation about the iPad 2 thus far has revolved around what didn’t go into this update – indeed, one blog seriously claimed the tablet wasn’t the ‘main event’, and we should all wait it out for the iPad 3.
Rumoured upgrades that didn’t make the cut include an SD card slot; a mini-USB port; an HDMI port; a carbon-fibre body; and a display-port out. While some punters will be genuinely disappointed that these conveniences remain unmet, including them wouldn’t necessarily improve the core performance of the iPad. Actually, they could conceivably interfere with the logic (and the size) of the device.
Most notably absent is a high-resolution Retina screen. Given the Retina’s truly excellent performance on the iPhone, it’s an upgrade that’ll make the iPad feel a little dated before it’s even on the shelves. Much of the gossip that was churned out can be taken with a sack of salt, but I’d put money on reports that supply problems pushed back the technology’s inclusion are true.
The only genuinely confusing omission is compatibility with Apple’s new data transfer platform, Thunderbolt. After introducing the protocol during last week’s MacBook Pro launch, you’d assume the iPad 2, a multimedia device that often requires the transfer of large audio and video files, would be a perfect gateway drug to get people hooked to high speeds. But Thunderbolt was nowhere to be found, the reasons for which I can’t yet fathom.
But in a way, all of this talk about connectivity and screen resolution really is missing the point: sure, the way the iPad does things is very interesting and all, but it’s what it does that counts.
By doubling its processing power, the iPad suddenly becomes a relatively powerful computing device, and now has the ability to give the laptop – and the PC – an old-fashioned run for its money.
Apple’s now pitching the iPad 2 with constant references to the ‘Post PC’ landscape. It’s a pretty clear signal that the company’s going to push its tablet into applications far beyond simply checking Facebook and watching YouTube.
The iPad’s already earned its chops as an entertainment device (a task in which the iPad 2’s obscenely beefed-up graphics processor and HDMI dongle will aid it greatly), but hasn’t yet made serious, Microsoft-grade inroads into business. However, Apple is feeling pretty confident that it will, and appears to have teachers, doctors and enterprise in its sights. They seem to have taken to the device with relish.
Video editing, for example, with its large file sizes and rendering, is a notoriously hungry application. It’s telling that Apple used the rejigged iMovie to showcase its new powers. Editing a movie with a thing no bigger than a stack of papers? I read about this stuff all day, and that’s still totally amazing.
At this stage, it’s hard to predict exactly what we’ll be using the iPad 2 for in six to 12 months time – given the fact that the most interesting apps came out once developers had a year with iPad 1. Now developers aren’t as limited by processing power, that sense of unbound potential is keener still. I think that makes today’s release pretty exciting.
But, before I wrap up my opinion of the iPad 2 – and, in the interests of full disclosure, without having touched the thing – I’d like to make one final observation: it’s totally sex. The two planes and glossy white body – how great does that look? And that’s why we’re all going to buy one.