With news that Apple missed extremely high earnings estimates in Q4 and following the iPhone 4S launch, the TechnologyGuide team reexamining Apple following the death of Steve Jobs. Can the Mac maker still out innovate the competition?
The Apple Impact
Simply put, Apple did not invent the tablet. Apple reinvented the tablet.
TabletPCReview has been reviewing tablets and covering tablet technology since 2004. Three years prior in 2001, Bill Gates first introduced a public prototype of a device he dubbed at “tablet PC,” which ran Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. While that is generally accepted as the birth of the modern tablet, pen and touch-based systems have been around as long as computers.
But it wasn’t until January 2010 that tablets received mainstream attention and broad consumer acceptance, because that is when Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPad.
The iPad differed starkly from the Windows tablet PCs of years prior. For starters, Apple ditched the pen input in favor of touch. Apple also scaled up a mobile operating system to a larger screen instead of working from a desktop/laptop-based environment like Windows. The iPad borrowed popular elements from netbooks and iPhone like instant on and all-day battery. It also sported a vibrant display that still holds up today as one of the best in the market, and with a base price of $500, was cheaper than the relatively expensive Windows tablet PCs and convertibles.
Combined with the App Store populated by the work of eager iPhone app developers, superb marketing, and the very popular Apple Stores, the iPad was a runaway success that has been well documented by TabletPCReview. To date, Apple has sold more than 40 million units and it owns upwards of 75% of the total tablet market, despite increased competition from Google and others.
Because Jobs had such a close hand in designing and developing the iPad, it’s tempting to think his departure will negatively impact future releases. And because new CEO Tim Cook is better known for logistics management than innovation, it’s tempting to think Apple will be more conservative going forward.
The team at TabletPCReview disagrees with these sentiments.
As we outlined in August when Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO, next-generation iPad details are probably all but finalized. It will very likely have a higher-resolution display, quad-core processor, and slightly thinner design (we also then thought it would support LTE technology, but given that the iPhone 4S does not, we are 50/50 on the chances of a 4G iPad), bringing it in line with the next-generation of Honeycomb/Ice Cream Sandwich tablets.
Also, Apple with Steve Jobs was not a one-man show. Again, as we wrote earlier this summer:
But Apple is a large company, and the iPad, iPhone, and the rest of Apple’s successful product lineup were not created by one man. Jonathan Ive, Apple’s principal designer is still on board, and he is credited with the look and feel of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Still, the fact remains that Apple’s products were crafted by talented teams of engineers and designers that have been steeped in the Apple culture of innovation.
What was true in August is still true today. Despite the loss, Apple will not stop being Apple.
Room for Growth
Not only does TabletPCReview believe Apple will continue to thrive under Tim Cook, we see room for growth. By many accounts, Steve Jobs was passionate in his beliefs and uncompromising in his vision, perhaps to the detriment of Apple products.
Jobs is credited with championing the post-PC era, and the iPad reflected this by its lack of traditional PC inputs, especially USB and SD card. As a result, loading content onto an iPad can be an awkward endeavor, especially without a laptop or desktop handy for synching. Of course, Apple sells an SD card adapter for $29 that eliminates the hassle, and iCloud makes synching easier. But care to guess how many of the millions of iPad owners wish they could easily dump photos onto their iPads without the need for an added accessory?
As the Toshiba Thrive and Lenovo ThinkPad have shown, there is still room for USB and SD on tablets. Lenovo has taken things a step further with its ThinkPad Tablet and demonstrated the potential of pen technology, which was most notably shunned by Apple, with mobile tablets. With handwriting to text, the iPad could be an excellent device for taking notes, if only Apple would allow it.
This is not to suggest that Apple will be releasing an active stylus with the next iPad, or that it will have a USB port. But it is fair to say Apple products often sacrificed function under the guise of innovation and in the name of the post-PC era.
With Google toiling away at Android and adding significant new features with every update, Apple will have to keep up. Google is pushing hard with near field communications (NFC) and Google Wallet, and in doing so, hopes Android will become deeply integrated into consumer day-to-day purchasing activities. NFC has become a standard feature on most Android phones, while it’s absent on all iPhone models.
It’s safe to assume that Apple will hop on the NFC bandwagon with a future device. After all, Apple has routinely specialized in not being the first to market, but being the best, simplest, or most refined. As Apple fans like to say of Apple products, “it just works,” and it just works because Apple under Jobs would not release a technology until it was ready for consumption.
For the near future at least, things will continue to “just work” for Apple, and we are confident it will continue to work just a bit better with each new device.