I think Apple and its product-naming conventions are just screwing with our heads now. First there was that iPhone 5 fake out, when the iPhone 4S looked and sounded at first blush to be a bit less of a change than it actually was. It ended up blowing the doors off of sales.
And now, after expecting a neatly and cleanly named iPad 3 or HD or something, they actually fall back on the original name. In fact, when I finally got my order for the thing to go through Apple’s choked Store yesterday, I did a triple take to make sure the item on the receipt was the right iPad. Apple notes in parentheses that you ordered a “third generation” unit, even as they still call it an iPad.
By any name, the tendency in tech land is to focus on the hardware specs, which I did myself in my first report Wednesday. But Apple is smarter than that. It is significant that they spent so much time in Wednesday's presentation on the software rather than the hardware. The version of Garage Band for iPad as well as the AutoDesk Sketchbook Ink and movie and photo editing tools were all speaking to the iPad’s clear superiority over all comers when it comes to apps.
On tech specs, there are already some Android tablets with hi-res screens and quad core processors. Apple clearly does not want to get lured into a spec war. Its focus on some of those dazzling games and apps was demonstrating its superior ability to leverage that hardware in ways even the best Android tablets cannot. It also was making the quiet point that virtually all of these applications pretty much require a larger screen.
It is no coincidence that Apple showed off apps that brought desktop functionality and depth to the tablet. Their presence implicitly underscored the post-PC sensibility.
And ultimately, Apple wants to move its tablet advantage into the realm of productivity. They already admit some impact of the iPad on their laptop sales, and it is in their interests to move the platform forward as a PC replacement before anyone else does. Seeing the Windows 8 platform on the horizon, whatever one thinks of its prospects, has to make the company consider how to cut off Microsoft’s enterprise advantage before it gets a chance to show itself on a tablet.
Yesterday’s introduction of a new iPad was as much an early indicator of Apple’s growing conviction that tablets may well become the first screen in people’s lives.