Thoughts on the recent iPad event

As Apple events go this seemed rather dull. Partly this was the overall lack of surprise. We were expecting a new smaller iPad, check. A mini iPad with Retina, check. The release of OS X Mavericks, check but not the Free Upgrade, surprise. Details on the Mac Pro, again check. One more thing, not really. Slight boost to the Mac Book Pro specs but no big deal and no new product.

All these announcements were predicted and should be regarded as incremental. The only thing close to a surprise was the pricing of Mavericks and the bundling of apps on a new iPad or Mac purchase. This is a tactical tool to reduce people’s dependence on Microsoft Office and increase the stickiness of Apple users.

iPad air and apps The presenting executives with the new baggy shirt look, seemed a bit off.  Their energy levels were rather flat, as if Apple wasn’t particularly excited about these announcements either (with the notable exception of Craig Federighi, who the most polished presenter). Most of the jokes and digs at competitors were awkward. Nothing about the speeches seemed natural — at best, the presentation felt uptight. The lines were so tightly scripted that the presenters often stumbled off-script slightly, and rather than rolling with it naturally, they’d just jump back and awkwardly retry the line.

The product messaging was almost entirely just rehashing old talking points. We’ve seen the Dots video for months. We know Microsoft’s tablets suck badly. We know that effectively nobody browses the web on their cheap Android tablets full of stretched-out phone apps. We know the iPad is number one in customer satisfaction. We know that people are using iPads in all sorts of different ways. Look, firefighters are launching space shuttles with an iPad! Farmers are building wind turbines and composing songs! And Apple can’t wait to see what we do with our iPads.

But they already know. Everyone knows what people do with iPads, because iPads have been heavily used in public for over three years. It looks like most people use iPads for basic web tasks (email, browsing, Facebook), reading, and, importantly, casual gaming. Going into the holiday season, in which many millions of iOS devices are usually sold that will primarily be casual-gaming devices, Apple hardly even mentioned games. Is that because they don’t need to, since games are already a popular iPad use, or because they’re not in touch with one of the biggest reasons people buy iPads?

Suppose the event worked, and we’re all jazzed up to buy the new iPads. Well, too bad — you can’t even preorder either of them yet. The iPad Air is available  in store on November 1st, 10 days after the event with no ability to preorders. The produce most likely to be in higher demand — the Retina Mini — doesn’t even have a release date yet, except “later in November”. The black Mac Pro is even vaguer in terms or release date. Yes we have a spec and a price but we don’t know when we can purchase.

So we have an expected iPad refresh, a free upgrade to Mavericks, more access to iLife, iWork, and the incrementally updated Retina MacBook Pros. But I can’t help but feel like the event wasn’t up to Apple’s standards.

UK Products and pricing

iPad air

iPad Mini with Retina. From £319 for 16GB – coming late November. Available in 16, 32, 64 and 128 GB versions.

iPad Retina Air. From £399 for 16GB – Available Nov 1st from Apple. Available in 16, 32, 64 and 128 GB versions.

Mac Pro. From £2,499 for Quad Core Intel Xeon. Coming in December

Mac Book Pro. With retina display. 13 inch starting at £1,099. 15 inch starting at £1,699

ipad mini with retina display

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