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Quick-Take: iPad2 Launched, Features Left on the Drawing Board

March 2, 2011

The iPad2, Available in "Black or White" on March 11, 2011

No doubt that Apple is the 800lb gorilla in the room when it comes to mobile tablets and phones today. With lack-lustre acceptance of the first “official” Android tablet – Motorola’s Xoom – the new aspects of the Apple iPad2, announced today, will surely keep iPad adopters on-board for the next version. Coming March 11, 2011, the new iPad will come in three memory sizes (16, 32 and 64GB) and be available as an WiFi-only variant (802.11a/b/g/n) as well as a Wi-Fi+3G+aGPS variant (UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA/GSM/EDGE or CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A) – both with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

Besides coming in a “white” model from “day one,” the iPad2 sports the anticipated Apple A5 dual-core system on chip based on the ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. The 9.7 inch LED-backlit multi-touch display features the coveted IPS display technology that gave the original iPad such great color. Additionally, the iPad2 joins the iPhone4 in the dual-camera club with a front-facing VGA camera (suitable for FaceTime) and a rear-facing HD camera (suitable for 720p, 30 fps video).

Apple's HDMI "mirroring" connector includes pass-through 30-pin port for charging.

Rounding-out the features include HDMI output via proprietary 30-pin to HDMI+30-pin adapter (dongle) supporting video to 1080p. Missing from the “dreamed about” feature list are: high-resolution display, removable media, standard USB ports,  autonomous GPS and near field communications interface. At 0.34 inches thick and 1.33 lbs, the iPad2 shed 0.17 lbs and 0.16 inches in thickness by removing the additional display glass, but it kept the original’s 1024×768 display – a slip behind the standard 1280×800 display profile of Honeycomb-wielding 10″ tablets.

Out of the gate, iPad2 versions will be available for AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the US (although specific launch dates for either carrier are not yet available). The iPad in Business section of the release site looks impressive on the surface. The existing list of business oriented applications for iPad together with the obvious polish of the product represents a real obstacle for its competitors (like QNX-based Blackberry Playbook and Android-based Motorola Xoom).

SOLORI’s Take: The iPad2 represents a conservative update to the existing and wildly successful iPad (over 10M units in 2H 2010). Loyalist iPad users are early adopters, so it’s a no-brainer to predict that 3M iPad2’s will ship in H1/2011 to “iPad1” owners. If it happens, that makes for a solid supply of discarded iPads over the next few months which can actually HELP Apple entrench – giving them an artificial low-end product due to upgrades. Given that there is zero reference to the original iPad on Apple’s site, it’s safe to say that when inventories are gone, iPad2 will be the only game for Apple.

The shortcoming for iPad2 over its Android contenders is physical standards. I mentioned the screen resolution as compared to Android Honeycomb standard, but the Blackberry Playbook comes in under both devices at 1024×600 (last year’s “unofficial” Android tablet standard). While the Playbook is lighter at 0.9 lbs, it’s also smaller (and 0.1″ thicker) – more of a challenger for Galaxy Tab than iPad. Most of the Tegra2 tablets have mini-USB (some have full-size USB) and offer either mini-HDMI or full-size HDMI ports – either on-board or through a docking port. It’s rumoured that Apple has locked-up the IPS display market, but at 1024×768, those opting for higher resolution may turn to Android competitors for more desktop real estate.

Besides matching iPad2 feature-for-feature, Tegra2 Android tablets represent a serious threat (technologically) to iPad2. Another issue is storage: nearly every Android comes with both removable and built-in memory options – something neither iPad or Blackberry offer. In a business world, the ability to quickly exchange data without using WiFi or 3G/4G is huge – especially where remote access applications are concerned. That makes iPad dependent on its wireless carriers and WiFi/hot-spots for data exchange (or docking/undocking to notebook, laptop, etc.) The removable memory feature also allows enterprises to purchase the low-end memory configuration and supplement them with third-party memory or require end-users to supply their own.

Where iPad2 has the biggest advantage is turn-key applications through Apple’s iTunes market, and this is something they’re pressing heavily in today’s marketing message. Forget the clever iPad2 cover, its applications that ultimately make the product valuable to business. If Apple can stay ahead here, enterprise will follow. Unfortunately, Apple may find its “hatred” for Adobe’s Flash a position that could erode its market faster than anything else. Flash could be the great equalizer (or market accelerator) for Android and Blackberry, allowing businesses to rely on web-apps instead of native ones… in the meantime, Google has the clout and growth rate to compel all but the staunchest of application vendors to play both sides of the split market.

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