David Carr tweeted today, “Not one for Steve worship, but doubt latest miracle from Apple would have shipped without one critical accessory: A name.”
And it immediately struck me that this should be discussed. Because I would argue that this is about Apple, probably from when Jobs was alive and in charge, realizing that they are maturing as a business and that their mobile products – and the rest – are no longer just for the must-have-day-one crowd.
I started noticing this in other Apple product lines about a year ago. Changes were announced and sometimes promoted. But for the customer who was not obsessing on every footfall at Apple, thinking about buying an iMac meant buying whatever was on the sales floor that day/week/month.
People scream about the IPad and the iPhone… but what is the status of the classic iPod? You can still buy one. No pictures. No video. But the only portable product from Apple – aside from laptops – with over 64g of space. iPod Touch? It has pretty much everything the iPhone has except for the phone and wireless/no-wi-fi data… which also means a minimum of $600 a year less in phone and data service costs. The Nano has all but killed off the Shuffle. Both less than an 3/4 of an ounce, but the Nano has a million more tricks.
All of these products have evolved and all have been under the radar. Changes haven’t been secret, but without making a fuss, no one comes to the Apple store and complains that they miss the older, heavier, slower versions.
But back to the big show items, I see this as a step by Apple to mainstream their products. They love the free promotion they get with each new variation on the product line. But they have saturated the obsessive adapters and made real inroads into the mass population.
Now, instead of feeding the monster of the new constantly, it seems they are removing as much of the “I got this new thing but it will be obsolete in 6 months” conversation as they can. There has been more real innovation in the operational software than there has in the hardware lately. So instead of iPhone 5, you get iPhone 4S,,, which by the way, isn’t branded a 4S on the phone itself. And now, for the first time, a new version of the iPad without an added name, like iPad 3 or even iPad 2S.
Of course, the distinction is clear. This is the 4G version of the iPad. Screens a little better. Camera’s a little better. Processor is a little faster. But mostly, the 4G vs 3G is the big change. And that isn’t the kind of game changing difference that went from the iPad to the iPad 2 (on & off by cover, rear camera, front-facing camera allowing Skype and Facetime, significant processor upgrade).
The signal is clear to consumers. THIS is the iPad now. You can still grab an iPad2, barely months since it was widely available without a wait, for $100 less. But just as Apple did with the iPhone 4S, you can buy a 4… but only smallest size, 8 gigs in the case of the iPhone 4… 16 gigs in the case of the “old” iPad 2. So if you want a 32 gig or 64 gig iPad, you may be able to find something on the gray market, but officially, they no longer exist. THIS is the iPad now.
The obsolescence of PCs became a running gag. Anyone who tried to run ios4 on an iPhone 3 or ios5 on an iPhone 4 or, for that matter, a lot of the apps built for ios5 on a 1st gen iPad knows that nothing much has changed. The newest applications and new operating systems are making older hardware quite unattractive quite quickly. But by not numbering their way into this problem, Apple is now keeping the conversation amongst people who are already owners of their equipment, likely to upgrade as the experience is upgraded…. maybe not every generation, but certainly every other one, every 18 months or 2 years.
But if your kid has finally convinced you that you (or he or she) needs that Apple product to go on living and you walk into the Apple Store after March 16, THIS is the iPad, THIS is the iPhone, THIS is the iMAC (at 27″ or 21.5″ and nothing in between or bigger or smaller)…
Don’t think about it. You’re in Apple nirvana. Only a small percentage of owners will feel compelled to own the newest version of everything the day it launches (or before). But don’t mind them. Come in. Buy the brand hardware. It will be different in 6 months, but you’ll be fine. No one needs to know your generational number. It’s your first iPad. That’s enough.