This year's iPad announcement was, by most accounts, received by tech media as a hum-drum affair. The iPad 2 came with a significant speed boost, Touch ID, and fancy new gold option. Not enough, however, for members of the press to wet their pants and sing the praises of Cook and co.. Some view the iPad as losing steam while others feel Apple has run out of ideas. The iPad Air 2 at this point is regarded by some as a rare gaff and oversight of Apple's upper management.
While Apple may be a company that creates a revolutionary product every 4-5 years, what they truly excel at product iteration. Apple's ability to continually improve a product year over year, work out kinks, and pick low-hanging fruit while making said product faster and more efficient is unparalleled. That may sound like I've downed the preverbal kook-aid but name one company that does it better.
Make no mistake about Apple's iterative process - it's neither by accident nor the natural progression of product creation - it's by design and completely intentional. Apple isn't a company that ships a product only to then think about the next one. Apple may have just shipped iPhone 6 but plans at this point are almost certainly finalized for iPhone 6S and well underway for iPhone 7. Apple sees products like iPhone, iPad, and Mac not as silo'ed creations but as platforms. Platforms that grow over time and continue to improve. Platforms that have a roadmap and a story.
Look at this year's iPad Air 2 against the previous model. The addition of Touch ID is low-hanging fruit. A year ago, everyone including myself was both disappointed about the lack of Touch ID while knowing it would be in the next version of the device. The gold option is a nice addition but certainly not reason to upgrade from the iPad Air. Lastly, we have a sizeable speed boost and the move to 2GB ram but that was expected. Every year, Apple improves the performance and (usually) efficiency of their devices.
This year, there was nothing out of the ordinary. All that was delivered was expected but that's apparently a disappointment.
To add insult to injury, we have Apple's latest earnings call. iPad sales, for the first time in its short 4 year life, were down. But that was last quarter and I would attribute much of that to pent up demand from customers waiting to buy the successor to the iPad Air. I expect iPad's current quarter sales to be better than last years. But add the predictable iPad update to shallow sales numbers and the tech press will pounce.
Alas, much to do about nothing.
iPad hasn't been around long enough to be predictable. With iPhone, customers are aware they're eligible to upgrade every 2 years and most plan to. With Macs, folks rarely replace less than every 3 years. Which side does the iPad tend to lean toward?
iPad is a special beast that has never played by traditional tech wisdom. After 4 years, we're starting to see patterns emerge that move it closer to the Mac in upgrade cycle than iPhone but it's still too early to tell.
Apple isn't aiming the iPad Air 2 at iPad Air owners. It's aimed at (roughly) iPad 2 owners - an iPad released in 2011, getting long in the tooth, and most likely not eligible for next year's iOS 9.
As for features the iPad Air 2 is lacking? What were you expecting? A "Retina HD" display, if following past iOS device improvements will stay exclusive to the iPhone for a year so don't expect an @3x iPad until 2015 at the earliest.
Apple moved the benchmark for iOS performance with the A8X chip, something that's been wildly underestimated. Currently, software isn't available to take full advantage of the new 3-core A8X or the 2GB of ram. If Pixelmator's demo is any indication, the iPad Air's speed boost is a really big deal.
If rumours are accurate, we could be seeing a new 'Pro' iPad in the near future with a larger screen and support for running multiple apps at once on the same display. As to why we didn't see such a device at this month's event is anyone's guess but, where there's smoke, there's fire.
iPad is a device that Apple clearly has a plan for. After all, iPad is in all regards a platform and has defined what it means to be a tablet. I take Tim Cook at his word that the current state of iPad is a merely a bump in the road. This year's iPad Air 2 lays the groundwork for next year's iPad Air 3 ( or 'the new iPad Air') and so on.
Reports of the iPad's demise are greatly exaggerated.