The new iPad announced today doesn’t break any revolutionary new ground, but it does upgrade basic features across the board and highlights Apple’s serious threat to use the iPad to conquer the personal computer market in a way the Mac never could.
The headline, as widely anticipated, is a new display with 264 pixels per inch—a ton of pixels. The new A5 chip has “quad core graphics” to power the display. There’s an upgraded camera, there’s voice detection, and left off my earlier list the new iPad will work with “4G” LTE networks from AT&T, Verizon, and some international mobile operators. None of this changes the world, in the lead-in to the announcement Apple bragged a bit about its sales and clarified their vision of the market. The way they presented it, it’s not that there’s a “tablet” market dominated by the iPad. Instead, there’s a PC market in which the iPad is a major player but by no means a dominant one. The emphasis is on a pattern of low-end disruptive change where steady incremental improvements to the iPad’s capabilities turn it into a potential PC replacement for a larger and larger segment of the population. The more powerful chips mean that more sophisticated aps can reside on the iPad. The rollout of iCloud is supposed to render the iPad’s limited storage capacity less relevant. The ability to get built in LTE makes the tablet an attractive alternative for travelers who’d prefer not to hunt around for a Wi-Fi hotspot. There are still lots of contexts in which a person is going to want to have a traditional laptop rather than one of these tablets. But that gap was huge with the original iPad, and it keeps getting smaller.