You just know that when Apple calls on the press to travel to New York or California to attend one of their special events, you can expect a long session with loads of flashy, but often tedious demonstrations. Usually the presentations are 60 to 90 minutes long, and start reasonably on schedule. That was true even when Steve Jobs was master of ceremonies, and he was famous for lengthy introductions with loads of suspense before rolling out the main course.
Well CEO Tim Cook is nothing if not efficient. He hit the stage a few minutes early, briefly recounting Apple’s great sales profile, and how the iPad, all by itself, exceeded the sales of any single PC maker in the last quarter. He then got down to business. First came the third-generation Apple TV, still $99, but with a slicker interface, and 1080p capability. This means you can download newly encoded movies and get picture quality equivalent to Blu-ray, or from such on-demand services as DirecTV. You’ll even be able to download the movies and TV shows you’ve already purchased all over again, assuming the studio has given Apple permission to do so.
Before you could blink a few times, it was over. Version three of the Apple TV will go on sale next week. By 10:15, a little over a quarter hour after the session began, we got to the main event with a surprisingly direct introduction by Tim Cook. But the actual presentation was delivered by worldwide marketing VP Philip Schiller.
The initial details were unsurprising, since the rumor sites and even the mainstream media had most of it pegged correctly. Like the iPhone 4 series, “The new iPad” will sport a Retina Display, offering 264 pixels per inch and designed to provide perfect display of text at a viewing distance of fifteen inches. The iPhone 4’s Retina Display considers ten inches the magic distance. Without actually seeing the third-generation product, I will accept Apple’s logic as correct, based on my experience with an iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s.
The chip is, as the rumors state, the A5X, not an A6. The specs are tricky, though. Although quad-core was mentioned, that’s strictly for the graphics. Apple’s own specs call the A5X otherwise a dual-core chip. Schiller boasted that the enhanced graphics provide four times the power of NVIDIA’s Tegra 3, widely used in rival tablets. The rear camera is now five megapixels, with technology derived from the higher resolution sensor on the iPhone 4s, along with 1080p video recording and image stabilization.
One new feature not previously mentioned is voice dictation. But not the Siri personal assistant, which may be a poor mix for the larger iPad. The iPhone 4s voice recognition scheme actually employs two mics, one for noise canceling, and that might be a key reason for Siri’s superior accuracy in recognizing what you’re saying, even under somewhat noisy surroundings.
Yes, the new iPad comes in versions with LTE cellular technology, but there are separate models for AT&T and Verizon Wireless, since their networks use different frequencies. Battery life is touted as the same as the previous model: 10 hours for the regular model, and nine hours for the LTE edition. All the extra goodies add weight and girth, with the the version three product measuring 9.4 millimeters “thin” and weighing 1.44 pounds for the Wi-Fi version, up from 8.8 millimeters (thinner) and 1.33 pounds for the iPad 2. So if you hoped for more convenient one-handed use, you may do better with an new exercise routine.
Prices are the same as the previous model, and Apple has already opened their store for preorders. The new iPad will ship beginning March 16th in ten countries. But expect supplies to be severely constrained for the first few weeks. Predictably, the 16GB iPad 2 remains in the lineup at $399, plus $130 for the 3G version. The competition is, without doubt, freaking.
Following the introduction, those in attendance endured the usual technology demonstrations, beginning with a presentation from Namco, famous for Pac-Man and other titles. It was all in the cause of showing you the magnificent video quality of the new iPad. Sounds convincing to me.
Anyway, once the demonstration were over, Schiller announced that both iWork and iLife are being updated for the iPad. Updates are free for existing customers.
A key feature: iMovie for iPad adds the ability to create a movie trailer as part of your project. The new addition to the mobile iLife bundle is iPhoto, sporting enhanced photo editing tools, including multi-touch editing, “professional” quality effects, brushes, photo beaming, lots of sharing features and other goodies. It’s a lot more than you’d expect for a simple photo organizing app that costs a mere $4.99. Adobe take notice. This app, also available for the iPhone, got more demonstration time than anything else, other than the new iPad itself.
Oh, and by the way, it’s not called the iPad 3, it’s not called the iPad HD. It’s “The new iPad,” or maybe just iPad, depending on your point of view. I have to get out of the habit of referring to it by that phrase each and every time. Maybe “third-generation iPad” will gain traction.
As to the rest of the rumors, such as a haptic virtual keyboard, which would simulate the “feel” and action of a real keyboard, none of it happened. Other than the updates for iLife and iWork, little in Apple’s media event came as a surprise, except for the peculiar product naming of course. But that won’t stop people from lining around the block to get their hands on The new iPad. There I said it!
Somewhat later Wednesday, an expected iOS 5.1 update arrived, with bug fixes and a few feature enhancements, along with a Japanese version of Siri. As for the tech pundits, as with the iPhone 4s, some are already ranting that this iPad is not such a big upgrade because the case looks nearly the same, as if that would make a significant difference in the user experience. Isn’t a Retina Display and speedier performance for the same price enough?
At the end of the event, with the closing words, “We are just getting started,” Tim Cook left the stage.