The news about the latest version of Apple's iPad came to me tweet by tweet as a few members of the media gathered around a colleague's smartphone for news on the big announcement. Due to appallingly bad timing by Apple, the announcement took place squarely during the International Press Party at the Hannover Fair Press Centre. Because we were diligent members of the media, we were careful to meet all of our obligations, and this meant we had to do some multitasking.
Part of the multitasking meant that we were required to show the flags of our various publications, and to make sure that we consumed our share of the huge spread of German and Turkish specialties laid out for the International Press. We were also required to make sure we were diligent in our comparison of both Turkish and German liquid agricultural products, in this case those brewed from the finest barley and hops. It's tough being a member of the International Press with all of those responsibilities.
Still, we followed the Apple iPad 2 announcement feature by feature. We had all discussed the fact that it would have two cameras, a faster processor and that it would be faster. We checked each item off the list as it came through the Twitterverse. While none of us was required to cover the announcement-our editors had chosen the wise course and assigned people who were more local to cover the event-we still wanted to see how the iPad 2 compared to all of the other tablets that were being introduced at CeBIT.
As it turned out, it was a good comparison. Just about every tablet being shown by the 39 tablet makers met the same specifications. There were differences, of course. Some tablets had larger screens compared to the iPad 2, some had smaller screens. The other tablets were mostly running Android 3.0 Honeycomb or Microsoft Windows 7. They all had touchscreens with multitouch support. They all had added features above what Apple was offering, such as SD card slots, USB ports, HDMI connectors or some combination. Almost all had processors similar to what Apple was introducing.
And thus the 2011 Standard Tablet was born. To be taken seriously in the tablet race, you need to have that basic configuration: a screen of about 10 inches, two cameras, a fast processor and access to a good supply of applications. Unfortunately for Apple, the iPad 2 meets the minimum of what's expected, which means that each of the devices from those 39 manufacturers at CeBIT (and most of those had multiple tablets) plus the other tablets from other makers that weren't at the show would have more to offer.
No doubt Apple will still sell more tablets than anyone else. The iPad is still very well-engineered, it's reasonably priced and it still has the best app store around. But as the competition becomes stiffer, it will be harder for Apple's iPad to be the default choice. Other tablets have features that Apple doesn't and can't currently offer, other choices are less expensive, more secure or faster.