Sure, there’s a gorgeous new high-resolution display powered by the A5X processor, an improved 5-megapixel camera and 1080p video recording, a reimagined iPhotos iPad app ($5), and support for super-fast (albeit limited coverage) LTE networks from AT&T and Verizon.
The new iPad also costs the same as the iPad 2: $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB, and $600 for 64 GB. Tack on $130 for 4G wireless models. The same pricing scheme should make consumers happy. The new iPad will become available on March 16.
But where’s the Apple magic?
I kept waiting for the big thing but never heard it. The Apple invite promised, “We have something you really have to see. And touch.” Seeing the high-resolution display, I get it. What about touch? Nothing new in that department. I doubt the late Steve Jobs, a stickler for detail, would have let that marketing slip pass.
The signature feature, of course, is the high-resolution display, doubling the number of pixels in the iPad 2 and even surpassing HDTV. The new iPad’s 2048 by 1536 pixels are massive by any measure. You can bet gamers are salivating, especially after watching the “Infinity Blade: Dungeons” tease during Apple’s announcement.
Along these lines, the A5X and quad-core graphics processor really boosts performance. Apple marketing guru Phil Schiller told the crowd that the A5X chip offers four times the performance of the Tegra 3 chip inside many Android tablets.
Graphics aside, there were disturbing signs of cracks in Apple’s armor in the post-Jobs era.
For starters, where was Siri? The new iPad keyboard supports voice dictation, but Siri is much more than that. Nearly every Apple watcher predicted—no, assumed—Siri will be in the new iPad. It’s just hard to believe that Jobs would have allowed a new iPad without Siri. After all, Apple bills Siri as the future way to interact with a computer.
Siri, which Apple baked into the new iPhone 4S, was no doubt spurred to market as a key differentiator in the hot smartphone market. That kind of competitive tension is sorely lacking in the tablet world, where the iPad has dominated. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook opened today’s event by belittling the efforts of some 100 tablet rivals.
Without competition spurring innovation, the new iPad is a lackluster upgrade.
For instance, the new iPad’s 4G LTE support might seem impressive—especially when coupled with the fact that Apple was able to maintain battery life in light of power-consuming 4G chipsets—but it isn’t all that useful. Let’s face it, 4G LTE availability is very limited. Most people buy WiFi-only iPads anyway.
Some industry watchers talked up the new iPad-tuned iPhoto app. Admittedly, I’m not a photo geek and wouldn’t use this app. But iPhoto sure seemed complicated on the iPad, and I couldn’t help wondering if Jobs would have allowed so many features to muck up the app’s simplicity.
And then there’s the name, the new iPad, the most startling revelation to come out of the Apple event.
Sadly, I envision a committee of Apple executives sitting around a table arguing about what to call the damn thing. Since most committees dumb down to consensus, the name is about what you’d expect, which is why Jobs absolutely abhorred committees.
All of this leads to a worrisome question in Apple’s post-Jobs era: Who’s making the decisions?
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.