Comment by TAN KIT HOONGintech@thestar.com.my
WHEN you boil it down to pure hardware specifications alone, the iPad 2 is merely playing catch-up to recently announced Tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom and the HP TouchPad.
But I've got to hand it to Apple - with its tight control over engineering, manufacturing and experience in software design, a still-thin but still-very-much-alive Steve Jobs managed to pull a few rabbits out of his proverbial hat at the launch.
For example, while the dual-core A5 chip, the FaceTime cameras and the improved graphical prowess (reportedly 9x better than the first-generation iPad) was pretty much expected, the fact that Apple managed to still make the iPad a third thinner and retain the 10-hour battery life was a pleasant surprise.
That Apple managed to add all these features and keep the prices of each model the same as its comparable predecessor is quite an achievement.
In fact, as Steve Jobs points out in his presentation, Apple's competitors in the Tablet space are still finding it difficult to compete on price - according to Jobs, most Tablets out there are US$799 (RM2,400), while the iPad 2 starts at US$499 and only one model out of six exceeds US$799.
However, the most interesting announcements at the iPad 2 launch were in the area of software.
Jobs makes a pertinent point in his presentation that technology alone is not enough, but the marrying of technology with the liberal arts that makes the difference.
While it sounds like a very esoteric statement, what Jobs is saying is saying is that the hardware doesn't matter as much as having software that allows you to interact with your videos, music and photos in an easy and meaningful way that will make a "post-PC" device like the iPad successful.
This is where iMovie and GarageBand comes in - with the introduction of these two popular applications for the iOS, Apple has edged the iPad 2 ever closer to being as functional and as powerful as the MacBook, and a heck of a lot more portable.
Of course, there are probably some limitations to what GarageBand and iMovie can do on the iPad 2 - for example, the limited hardware also means that there are probably restrictions on the kind of video formats and resolutions that iMovie on iPad 2 can handle.
However, considering that these apps are as powerful and as functional as they are for a low-powered device like the iPad is a testament of Apple's understanding of both the hardware and software - something which I wager most of its competitors that focus on hardware specifcations alone will find difficult to match.
So the question is whether Apple has managed to stay in the lead with the iPad 2.
In hardware, maybe not, but taken as a package together with the software, I think Apple has knocked it out of the park with the iPad 2.