Steve Jobs returned from his medical leave absence to show off the latest “insanely great” product by Apple – the iPad 2. Of course the audience provided Steve Jobs with a standing ovation when he came on stage and it’s good to see him looking fairly healthy, albeit a little thin.
Jobs started the announcement talking about Random House and their 17 thousand books are joining the other publishers to provide content for iBooks. Additionally, in less than 1 year, 100 million books have been downloaded.
Always wanting to show value for the App Store developers, Jobs then mentioned that Apple now has over 200 million Apple ID accounts with credit cards linked and ready to purchase using 1-click purchasing. He questioned whether Apple or Amazon had the most accounts with a linked credit card. Next he mentioned that over $2 billion has been paid to developers cumulatively. To further drive home his point of providing a marketplace with built in consumers for Apps, Jobs mentioned that over 100 million iPhones have been shipped.
With that out of the way, Jobs then started talking about the iPad 2…
Jobs mentioned that the iPad is Apple’s third post-PC blockbuster that started with the iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007 and the (Year of the) iPad in 2010. Modern-day Apple earns the majority of their revenues from their reinvention into a consumer electronics company.
Next, Jobs’ review of the Year of the iPad started with him mentioning the unbelievable price then followed that up with his first jab at Apple’s competitors which generated some laughs. Between April and December, 15 million iPads were sold last year bringing in $9.5 billion in revenue IN 9 MONTHS. Apple enjoys more than a 90% market share in this newly created consumer electronic niche in large part due to the 65,000 iPad-ready apps in the App Store. As I said last March, “this Geek thinks Apple may have a hit on their hands.”
Continuing with the review of the Year of the iPad, four (4) use cases were brought up: education, medical, business and autism. Friends of my family have an autistic kid and swear by Apple products and in particular the iPad, mentioning how the truly magical device (in their eyes) can bring their child to life, learn and better communicate using the iPad, so this last use case really struck a nerve with me. It also proved to be an excellent transition to the 2nd generation of the iPad… the iPad 2.
So what’s new? The 2nd generation sports an all new design that is sleeker at 8.8mm (thinner than an iPhone 4 and 33% thinner than the original iPad) and weighs 1.3 pounds (down from 1.5 pounds). The new design comes in Black and White and White will ship on Day 1. The real win is the new chip – the A5. The A5 is a dual core processor making the iPad 2 dramatically faster than the original with 2x faster CPU and 9x faster graphics. The extra speed does not drain the battery however and the 10 hours of use and 1 month standby times still hold up. The iPad 2 will be the first dual core tablet to ship in volume.
Another enhancement that had many scratching their heads after the original iPad was released are the rear and front facing cameras. Engineers also included a gyroscope and there are both AT&T and Verizon versions for 3G network support.
The pricing of the iPad will remain the same starting at $499 and moving up to $829 depending on network access and storage space. One decent surprise for me, although I’d heard rumors, was that the device begins shipping on March 11th. On March 25th, the iPad 2 will be shipped to 26 more countries for a much quicker international rollout than the original iPad.
With a new iPad comes new accessories including an HDMI mirrored video output adapter that works with all apps and mirrors everything you see on the iPad on a connected HDTV. I’m curious to see if Netflix and purchased movies can be shown using this accessory as well. The last feature also includes the fact you can charge your iPad while using. The HDMI mirrored video output adapter will be sold for $39.
Not happy with the design of an iPad case, Apple engineers came up with Smart Covers which use magnets to grasp and auto-align the cover. The Smart Cover also automatically sleep and wakes up the iPad 2. These Smart Covers add minimal weight and thickness and include micro-fiber lining to clean the screen. The covers come in polyurethane for $39 and leather for $69.
OS and App Updates
The iOS upgrade also provides the ability for iPhone 4 customers to turn those devices into a WiFi hotspot. As part of the iOS upgrade you will also get a Photo Booth app which is always a riot on a Mac and Facetime providing video conferencing finally for the iPad with it’s new two video cameras. The iOS upgrade drops on March 11th.
Finally, two additional Apple created apps were introduced including iMovie for the iPad and Garageband for the iPad. Both apps will be available March 11th for $4.99 each.
Steve Jobs was proud of the company and the iPad 2 team and mentioned “I’m blow away with this stuff” on more than one occasion. So, are you blown away?
To Buy or Not to Buy?
Personally, as a heavy personal and business iPad user, I plan to upgrade particularly for the video conferencing and the dual core processor resulting in 2 faster CPU and 9x faster GPU. The design being thinner and lighter would not cause me to buy a new version, but cameras and speed will.
The iOS improvements look great especially the iTunes home sharing and enhancements to Airplay which have both been frustration points. With iTunes home sharing I should be able to operate and access my content without having to take up precious space on the iPad while the Airplay enhancements to display websites on Apple TV were needed. The fact that Facetime for the iPad will be included helped make my decision to upgrade.
So, while I would have loved a retina display and 4G connectivity… there’s always next year (or 9 months).
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