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New iPad: One Giant Leap for Power Users, One Small Step for Everyone Else

New iPad: One Giant Leap for Power Users, One Small Step for Everyone Else

The new iPad is an oxymoron: It is at once a strong leap forward that will let Apple hold onto its huge market and mindshare, and yet the new features are not so different from the iPad 2 as to cause an I-need-the-new-iPad-to-change-my-life panic for current owners.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
03/08/12 5:00 AM PT

Apple handily increased its lead in the tablet and HDTV set-top box space when it revealed its new iPad and new Apple TV at its media event Wednesday.

Why huge? The raw specs on the new iPad give awesome Retina HD screen capabilities (without the "HD" in the name), and the A5X chip is a dual-core bad boy with quad-core graphics capabilities. What does this mean? Gorgeous graphics and silky smooth flicking and zooming with text so sharp it will look like glowing printed paper -- and that's if you're only reading novels. Textbooks will pop better than ever, and your photos might seem more vibrant and alive on screen than in the real world.

The backside camera is now capturing 5 megapixels of light for better photos, plus you can record at 1080p for HD video. Movies, too, will be capable of playing at a 1080p HD resolution. The cellular data service capabilities now work with 4G LTE (read: wicked fast) services, plus the new iPad will play nice internationally while globetrotters are moving about the world. You can also turn the iPad into a personal hotspot if your cellular data service provider offers the feature.

Worried that the new 2,048 by 1,536 pixel-packed screen and brains required to run it will suck battery life? Not a problem: The new iPad will continue to deliver 10 hours of battery life.

Meanwhile, Apple introduced another cool feature: voice dictation. Instead of typing, you can tap the microphone icon on the keyboard and just say what you want. The iPad listens, then when you tap done, it converts your words into text. In addition to making business leaders truly dangerous with email on the go, dictation will work with third-party apps too for things like tweeting without even typing.

Is That It?

What, no Siri personal assistant? Unfortunately, no. For now, Siri is reserved for iPhone 4S users. But back to the question: Is that it? Essentially, yes. For regular iPad users, this announcement can be considered almost a relief -- there's not any feature or set of features that means you have to auction your iPad 2 and rush out to buy a new third-generation iPad.

Sure, the sum of the parts is pretty compelling, but as I look at the new features, none save dictation make me sit up and take notice. For me, most of these new features are simply a big evolutionary leap forward in the broader tablet market, which means that Apple will continue to produce a kick-ass device at an acceptable price point that will continue to snag the lion's share of the tablet market for the remainder of 2012. Apple will sell the new iPads just about as fast as the Foxconn factories can crank them out.

Some people might have wished for a smaller iPad, but as I use my Kindle Fire, it seems to me that its size is becoming annoying for everything except reading books and watching movies. Email, apps, Web browsing -- time and time again I reach for my iPad 2 for the superior size and overall experience.

So the new iPad is an oxymoron: It is at once a strong leap forward that will let Apple hold onto its huge market and mindshare . . . and yet, the new features are not so different from the iPad 2 as to cause an I-need-the-new-iPad-to-change-my-life panic for current iPad 2 owners. And speaking of the iPad 2, Apple is still selling it, but at US$100 less than the new iPads.

What About the New Apple TV?

The big deal is that you can now stream movies and TV shows in 1080p from the new Apple TV. There's a new simplified interface that looks more iOS like, but existing Apple TV customers will be able to update their devices and use the new interface too.

So, 1080p -- what's the big deal? For most people, it isn't. For movie lovers with 1080p HDTVs and fast Internet connections, they'll get a much sharper experience. For those of us with smaller HDTVs or those running at 720p or those of us who have middling internet service speeds ... yawn.

The good news? We don't have the rush out and buy a new Apple TV to get some bit of awesome app or Siri access. The bad news? We'll have to wait a long long time to even get a hint of what the real Apple TV will be all about -- the one with the interface leap that Steve Jobs alluded to in the Walter Isaacson biography.

I was hoping for a better remote, maybe even one with dictation features you could use for searching. And I was hoping (but really expecting) some sort of TV subscription offering or new live TV service agreement that would let me get ESPN without having to shell out for a big package via satellite or cable TV services (you know, with the pack of cruddy channels you don't want). This, though, is really dependent on the movie and TV industry, and they don't want anything to change.

iPhoto Comes to iPad

I was pleased to see iPhoto come to iPad as an app. It's not that I need any special features that other apps don't already provide; I just want a better photo management and manipulation experience without any hassle. iMovie and GarageBand were updated, along with iWork's Keynote, Pages and Numbers. Again, any amazing new features here? Not really. Just regular goodness that will mostly benefit power users.

All in all, this was a solid update and getting past it will let me focus on what I really want to see next: A new generation of MacBook Pros.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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