The “new iPad” launched this week, bringing a significant improvement in display quality and 4G connection speeds. But the way it was announced reminded me more of John Sculley’s Apple than Steve Jobs’ Apple. Steve was an expert at setting expectations that the product could beat, while Sculley tended to overset expectations and folks were increasingly disappointed. Sculley’s Apple had problems with execution as well. We saw all of that in the new iPad announcement. John Sculley was the CEO who is famous for firing and replacing Steve Jobs in the 1980s, and I think Tim Cook is now the new John Sculley.
Let me explain.
The new iPad and the old Newton
The Newton was a pretty amazing handheld tablet computer for its time. It significantly exceeded what any competing product could do. But Scully focused on handwriting recognition as the key feature and it sucked. No, it really sucked; it sucked so much it was a running joke for over a decade. This was an example of overreaching. Had Apple positioned the Newton around its strengths, which is what the Palm Pilot eventually did, it likely would have been a success.
Dictation may be the new iPad’s handwriting recognition. Unable to get Siri to work on the new iPad, Apple instead dropped back to dictation. But doing dictation right includes high accuracy and punctuation. Even the best current-generation dictation product is only about 98-percent accurate in a dead quiet room with lots of effort training the device. If you train yourself you can get to 99 percent, but punctuation has always been a bridge too far. And realize that even 99-percent accuracy will create a number of errors in even moderate email. In a noisy room, accuracy can drop precipitously, and the device can begin dictating what other people are saying. That’s not to even mention that listening to someone do this is even more annoying than a loud cell phone call, or someone who is currently arguing with Siri.
This would be more along the lines of a beta feature you might toss out there, but you’d never make it a signature product, the technology just isn’t there yet for anyone.
People were expecting the iPhone 5 last cycle, but Apple redesigned the phone and called it the 4S. It would appear that someone in Apple was pissed about the “S” part, and decided to leave off any version number on the new iPad, even though they are calling this the third-generation iPad on Apple’s website,(when the website isn’t crashing).
Even after March 16, there are likely to be old iPad 2s that folks are going to think are the new iPad.We aren’t, as a group, that observant.
So there will be some percentage of buyers who will buy the iPad 2 thinking it is the new iPad, and be pissed. This decision was likely made to clean out old inventory on top of the price reduction, or in the hope that many of the vendors would sell the old iPad at the old price. Whatever the decision, when you move to confuse, you typically piss off some very vocal folks and that seemed to be a problem with the pre-Jobs Apple.
The new iPad is positioned as having a dual-core processor with quad-core graphics, which Apple said (on stage) has higher performance than the Nvidia Tegra 3. However the Tegra 3 is a five-core (one core is for low-power mode) 12-shader part. Apple is, like a lot of folks have been, equating cores with shaders. They really only have a dual-core part with four shaders. Graphics are massively parallel, and in fact, Nvidia’s next part will be an eight-core processor with up to 64 shaders, or tremendously more advanced than its current offering. It is due before the year’s end. Because iOS isn’t ported to Tegra 3 or 4, doing a benchmark will be tough. But on spec (and engineers love specs), the Apple part doesn’t even look competitive, let alone superior.
Steve Jobs would have just focused on how great the product looked and avoided talking about cores at all. The new iPad looks fantastic, but it is no four-core product, and I think Apple’s presentation crossed the line into misrepresentation, which is always dangerous.
Good product, over promised
Anyone with an iPad 1 or even iPad 2 would appreciate the improvement in the new iPad, but the execution of the announcement has overpromised, which will likely lead some buyers to feel they were cheated.This is the kind of thing that makes people feel stupid for standing in line, and it is a very dangerous to do. The fact that Apple couldn’t port Siri in time is particularly troubling, suggesting it’s having internal execution problems. That was further exemplified by its inability to keep the order sites up after launch.
Apple brought out a product that, on its face and if Jobs had presented it, would have exceeded expectations. But the company fell into the common trap of trying to make it seem better than it was. Rather than doing that with words like “amazing” and “magical,” which are subjective, Apple promised objective specs and features, which will instead disappoint.
I have little doubt Apple will sell every iPad it can make for a while, but I also think an increasing number of buyers will feel ripped off. Maybe the Apple fan base won’t be as willing to stand in line for the next new iPad, regardless of what it is called.
Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.