Pitching the New iPad: Is Tim Cook the New John Sculley?

Rob Enderle
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The launch of the new iPad showcased an impressive product, but it also showcased a post-Steve Jobs Apple that struggled with presentation and set up what may be a painful, competitive (and even legal) response. Tim Cook did step up and pitch the product, but much like an engineer trying to sell a car, the product was positioned through its technical achievements and the magic, even the word "magic," wasn't there.


In addition, it may have misrepresented some features and that could lead to other problems. At the very least, this provides an opportunity for competitors to come in and steal this market from Apple. However, those competitors will still have to step up, and outside of Samsung and Amazon, finding a competitor that has, has proven difficult.


Let's look at the updated iPad where it shines and where if falls short.


New iPad - Shines


Basically this is an enhanced iPad 2 with some impressive improvements.


The display is a Retina display with a fingerprint-resistant surface (if you've ever used a tablet, you might actually appreciate the surface more than the increased resolution given how badly they tend to fingerprint). It has a twin-core processor with enhanced graphics to drive the new display. Apple has added LTE making this the first truly 4G Apple device, which suggests the next iPhone will get 4G. The camera has been improved to 5 megapixels (generally thought to be adequate for most uses) and it includes image stabilization autofocus, which is critical to any handheld digital video device. The 4G version gets GPS and it has included a dictation feature.


New iPad - Falls Short


The most noticeable thing is that Apple didn't rehash the name; it didn't even call this the iPad 2S to delineate it from its prior version and the prior version remains in market at a lower price. This will likely create some confusion and, in fact, when you go to the Apple website, it is a little unclear which product you are looking at.


Most products in the iPad's class at the high end have moved to quad-core processors. The iPad has a dual-core processor with a quad-core graphics system. Given in graphics systems we equate shaders with cores and measure them in large numbers, this appears to be an attempt at misdirection that I expect folks will call out. For instance, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX560 graphics card is said to have 448 cores because graphics are massively parallel. The comparable Tegra 3, 5-core part has 12 graphics shaders (cores) suggesting the Apple part is at least two cores short (the 5th core can't be used in parallel but is a low-power core) on processing and a whopping 8 cores short on graphics. (NVIDIA's next generation, due this year, has 8 cores and 64 shaders, suggesting by year end Apple will be massively behind).


Now granted, in the end, the user only cares about performance and it could do more with less. It just seems like Apple is intentionally being misleading here in a world where folks sue you if you breathe funny and this likely won't end well.


It doesn't offer Siri, which is very strange as the iPad should have more performance headroom than the iPhone does and Siri should have been an easy port. Instead, it added dictation, which has historically been very disappointing in use (with the most mature products only approaching 98 percent accuracy in noise-free rooms and unable to provide punctuation). This feels like it could become a Newton-like mistake (in that case with handwriting recognition) where people expect more but get far less. It became a rather painful joke. This is reminding me way too much of John Sculley's Apple.


Wrapping Up: Live by the Pitch, Die by the Pitch


For anyone with an iPad 1 this is clearly a step up, but I grow increasingly concerned when a vendor tends to obfuscate what appears to be a shortcoming and highlights it instead as a strength. This is a common mistake made by someone who lacks a deep understanding of how to present products, unlike Steve Jobs, and suggests a new set of problems in Apple's future.


In short, while some users will be pleasantly surprised by the new iPad, due to the way Apple mispositioned two key features, others may instead be disappointed. I expect competitors will begin to aggressively call foul shortly and that will potentially open the door for a stronger response.


In the end, Apple's success was largely tied to its ability to pitch great products. It is still building great products, but its ability to pitch them seems to have declined significantly.

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