COMMENTARY: Apple's latest version of the iPad may lack the “wow” factor some had hoped for, but it will speed the onset of the “post-PC era”
“The new iPad” might better be called the “somewhat improved iPad.”
So named by Apple in lieu of a model number, this iPad has a better screen, better processor and 4G connection speeds — but nothing to “wow” its fan base.
But Apple’s still likely to sell many millions of units, adding to its early dominance of what CEO Tim Cook calls the “post-PC era,” where “the PC is no longer the center of your digital world but rather just a device.”
How will content fare over the next year or so in that new era, and what will the iPad’s role be?
Here are a few predictions:
>> Books will increasingly be replaced by tablets. All trends point down for physical book sales, while ebook sales are booming. Apple will probably go head-to-head with Amazon in this realm, although Apple will likely dominate interactive textbooks; the late Steve Jobs launched an interactive textbook initiative that plays off Apple’s traditional strength in classrooms.
>> Tablets will become the preferred portable video device. The advantage of tablets over notebooks or DVD players for watching video is obvious: instant on, longer battery life, better portability, no need for DVDs and (vs. notebooks, anyway) generally cheaper prices. Apple’s price drop for earlier iPad versions ensures that it will remain the back-seat-DVD-player-replacement-of-choice for the time being. One caveat: new notebooks that imitate the iPad’s characteristics — particularly the new MacBook Air — could cut into that lead.
>> Some media outlets will finally score big on tablets. So far, iPads have largely been vanity plays for newspapers and magazines, which can’t yet point to significant profits from tablets. But for those who can turn the lack of printing and distribution costs to their advantage, there’s a huge opportunity. The Daily, the tablet-based newspaper started a year ago by Rupert Murdoch, has 100,000 paid subscribers and appears within sight of profitability.
>> Tablets will not be the preferred platform for music. However small they become, tablets can’t compete with phones or iPods for portability; and screen size is much less important for music than it is for video. In the home, someone who wants to listen to music without headphones is more likely to listen through their computer speakers than their iPad. At least, I do.
>> The new iPad will increase the pressure on dedicated gaming devices. This iPad has 2,048-pixel-by-1,536-pixel resolution, equal or better to most HDTVs. In addition, it’s fundamentally easier to use than game controllers, or Sony’s just-released Vita gaming device. Plus, plenty of games are free. For general purpose game playing, that should work just fine. Why spend hundreds of dollars on consoles or portable game devices if you’re not a game fanatic?