Media, be it print or electronic, is inundated with articles about the much anticipated iPad 3, which if rumors hold true will be released tomorrow. It needs to be noted however that Apple does have a track record of upsetting the ‘applecart’ as it were. I personally believe that this time round we will indeed see the launch of the third iteration of the highly successful iPad series. In this article I will try and see if the hoopla and hysteria surrounding the iPad 3 and indeed all Apple products is justified, and also explore the wish list of features that may or may not turn out to be a reality in the iPad 3 or iPad-HD as some are referring it to. I might also take a slight detour into Apple Inc.’s market capitalization and whether it will be sustainable.
I recently read an article where an Android aficionado was declaiming Apple’s products as shiny gizmos that are outrageously overpriced. I guess to a certain extent all sane techies (emphasis on ‘sane’, as I am sure all Apple fanatics are totally bonkers—and they will be the first to admit to their lack of sanity!!) will admit that Apple products compared to Android devices of similar configuration are overpriced and in some cases the price difference will be as much as 50% or even more. The costliest Samsung Android smart phone will set you back by 30K, but a similarly featured Apple device might cost 45K to 50K, and that, folks, is significant moolah.
The form factor, Apple products are beautiful and pleasing to the eye. I am not saying android devices are eyesores, but looks wise there is no real comparison—the simple minimalist design, the ease of use and the path breaking retina display of the iPhone are not matched by any Android device. Comparisons they say are odious, and yeah it would be like comparing the one movie wonders we have these days to the Madhubalas and HemaMalinis—no comparison right? It needs to be understood that I am not decrying Android devices, specially the Samsung made ones—they are real value for money, but they do lag behind in the looks department.
Getting back to the iPad 3, what are some of the features that Apple fans, both like me and unlike me, are looking forward to?
- Speed. A much faster processor, and I guess this is pretty much a given. News that Apple will bring the A6 Quad-core ARM processor has been making the rounds. Ironically, news is that Samsung, Apple’s arch rival in the smart phone and tablet wars, will be the likely supplier of these processors. iPad 3 users will be well satisfied with this processor as it is amongst the fastest going around.
- Display. Retina display, a term coined by the Cupertino giant has become the standard to be matched and improved upon. To date, only the iPhone has this display, but it is rumored that the iPad 3 will soon have this 2048 x 1536, 9.7 inch display, which would make viewing it an even bigger pleasure. I have had occasion to view the displays of both the iPad and the iPad 2, and they are simply visual delights, and if the iPad 3 is an improvement on them, then I guess all the more reason to buy it. Just an aside, the iPad 2’s display resolution is 1024 x 768, so what we are wishing for is a quantum jump here. Competition on this front is hotting up with Samsung rumored to be getting ready to demo a 2560 x 1600 display in a month or two, this might have significant implications for Apple as Retina display is one of its strongest selling points, its calling card as it were.
- Camera. Front facing camera. I am a great fan of video calls on carriers like Skype, Tango and ooVoo, etc. As such, I have always felt that Apple has shortchanged its admirers by just providing a VGA front facing camera in the iPad 2. I know it has a 5 MP rear camera, I might be in a minority here, but I am not sure how many iPad enthusiasts use the rear camera. I would hope that this time around we get an at least 3 MP front facing camera.
- Marketplace. One major complaint against Apple devices is their ‘closed’ nature. This has seemingly worked for Apple, but down the road this might prove to be counterproductive as is perhaps being seen by the market share being grabbed by Android devices. Apple’s lead is being cut both in market share as well as in technology—the specs are about the same, in some cases the Android devices might have better specs. This begs the question, how long can the Cupertino maverick sustain its ‘closed’ architecture. Having to go through the ITunes route to activate your devices is cumbersome and should be unnecessary. So, my wish would be for Apple to completely do away with this and perhaps ‘unseal’ its devices too, changing your SIM card (iPad 3GS) is an exasperating experience, having to use pins to bring it out is really frustrating.
- Price. There is no gainsaying the fact that Apple products are exorbitantly expensive - cell phones costing 50K plus, tablets in the 40K range. Apple has been able to laugh all its way to the bank riding on these products as it was the innovator. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad have revolutionized the digital workspace to such a massive extent that Apple is the most valuable company in the world now. The bad news for the Apple nerds is that the rumors suggest that the entry level iPad 3 might cost $ 579, which is much more than the $ 499 the iPad 2 set you back by. I wouldn’t be too disappointed if this rumor turns out to be false! With the dollar trading around 50, this is serious money people. Carriers in the US and UK subsidize the cell phones and tablets with their data plans, unfortunately we in India don’t have this luxury.
- Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface. Siri, the interactive intelligent personal assistant, was the USP for the iPhone 4S. It would be a wish come true if the iPad 3 has Siri.
- Sundries. A bigger battery, iOS 5.1, 128 GB storage, and a Thunderbolt port would kind of round off the wish list and there is quite the chance that these wishes will fructify.
Having said all this, would I stand in a queue for 2-3 days before an Apple outlet—NO, I wouldn’t. Would I blame a teenager for doing so—NO, I wouldn’t. I agree there is a lot of hysteria and hoopla surrounding Apple product launches, but I feel these incomparable masterpieces of minimalist design deserve them. The iPad 3 I am certain will be another feather in Apple’s cap, and all power to them.
Coming to the detour regarding Apple’s market cap and whether it will be sustainable or will we have to hear “how the mighty are fallen” or ‘the bigger they are the harder they fall’—there have been only a handful of companies that have achieved a market cap of $ 500 billions. To my arithmetically challenged friends, in rupee terms, this is 2,50,000 crores. Microsoft, Intel, GE, Exxon, and Cisco have touched this cap, but barring Exxon which still has a cap of $ 400 billion, the others are nowhere in the picture with Microsoft lagging far behind at 265 billions. The others are nowhere in the picture.
Will Apple suffer the same fate? It has a cash pile of almost 100 billions, perhaps more than what the US government has readily on hand, but will it be able to sustain such a colossal market cap? The jury is out on this. The scorching growth trajectory it has set over the last 4-5 years will be an incredibly difficult act to follow. Boom and bust is nothing new to Apple, but as a true admirer of this standalone company, I hope the landing this time round will be softer.