Apple unveiled the third version of the iPad tablet on Wednesday with its familiar charade: A casually dressed chief executive in front of an enormous screen, boasting gargantuan sales figures for the last generation of devices and then immediately rendering those obsolete by announcing a new one.
CEO Tim Cook, who replaced the late founder Steve Jobs, began by proclaiming a “post-PC revolution,” led by the troika of the iPad, iPhone and iPod. The company says it sold 172 million of these devices last year, and a total of over 300 million devices running the Apple operating system.
He then moved on to the big news of the day: the new iPad, which has four times the resolution of its predecessor and 44 percent better color saturation. The new device, which starts at $499, can also record video at extraordinary quality and boosted 4G download speeds. These upgrades come with amped up computing power and a 10-hour battery life.
Apple did not offer a live video stream of the event, but so many technology publications live-blogged the unveiling that it was possible to recreate every moment of the presentation at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center. Most of those present appeared to be sufficiently wowed by the demonstrations, which included immersive games in stunning resolution. “The game demo is showing a jet flying through the air, you can see the heat waves from the jet engines,” Wired wrote.
The announcement comes at a time when Apple is racing to continue to distinguish itself from competing tablets. As CNET noted earlier in the week, many alternatives were already more technologically impressive than the iPad2. Many, like Amazon’s $200 Kindle Fire, are also much cheaper. Judging by the announcement, Apple is banking on users paying a premium price for the company’s distinctive, often-mesmerizing combination of advanced hardware and high-quality apps. Cook compared the new experience to a Twitter application on a competing tablet running Android, the open-source alternative operating system. “It looks like a blown-up smartphone app, because that’s. exactly. what. it. is,” the New York Times quoted him as saying, stressing his emphasis on the point.
Like proprietary video game consoles, Apple’s closed operating system means app developers are developing just for one series of similar devices, not the broad range of hardware running flavors of Android. While many apps are available on both systems, software developers generally have to write separate versions for the two operating systems. Windows also has a growing mobile platform. While dazzling hardware makes for better presentations, the tug-of-war over apps and systems is arguably more important to the future of the iPad’s success.