Oct 22

Today Apple revealed the new iPad generation. But before we get to that, let’s take a brief look at today’s other tablet announcements. 

Nokia Lumia 2520

Nokia began the day by announcing the Lumia 2520 Windows RT 8.1 tablet. It looks very nice, but with a price tag of $499 plus $149 for the power keyboard who is going to buy it? If you are a developer developing for the Windows tablet market then you would probably buy the ‘official’ Surface tablet as your reference development device. If you are an enterprise deploying the full Microsoft stack, then it seems the Surface would be the natural choice too. Maybe this is Microsoft’s way of providing some (artificial) competition in the Windows tablet market. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Nokia Lumia product line once the merger with Microsoft is complete.

Microsoft Surface 2

Short on the heels of a $900 million dollar writeoff and several attempts at giving away the first generation Surface tablets, Microsoft launches the next generation Surface. It should be clear to everyone that Microsoft is going to spend whatever it takes to get into this market.

What would a Microsoft product launch be without some rebranding. This time they got rid of the confusing RT branding for the Arm based Surface. Now it’s just called Surface 2. (And plain Surface for last year’s model. Apparently they still have some of those in stock.) The version with an Intel processor is called Surface Pro. This model can run your regular Windows software. At $899 that’s a rather expensive Windows portable computer.

Who is the target consumer? If you are looking to replace your aging Windows laptop, it might be worth a look. But if you do a lot of typing, then the keyboard cover might not be the best ergonomic choice. Anecdotally a lot of people purchase an iPad instead of, or as an upgrade to, an old home computer. Apparently all those people do not feel tied to the Windows software ecosystem. Will the Surface take a bite out of that market? I don’t see any compelling reason to buy a Surface with an anemic catalog of apps, over the more mature iPad.

On the enterprise side things probably look brighter for Microsoft. Many enterprise customers that I talk to say that they are planning on deploying Windows tables within their organization. Most IT departments feel a lot more comfortable staying in the Wintel world.

As an app entrepreneur, the Surface could be a interesting opportunity. Microsoft is going to sell (or give away) a large number of these devices. With comparatively very little competition in the Windows Store (currently at around 110,000 apps) you can become a big fish in a small pond. (I’m actually working on a port of an existing iPad app to Windows. I’ll report back on how that turns out.)

New iPads

Maybe the main event of the day was Apple’s introduction of the next generation iPads. With the many rumors leading up to the event, there were very few surprises this time. Maybe that’s why it felt a bit off.

iPad Air

Smaller, lighter, much faster and the same battery life as previous models. This may seem like small incremental improvements, but taken together this year’s generation is no small achievement!
I think the name Air is interesting. First it gets rid of the old confusing line of model names (iPad, iPad 2, The New iPad, iPad (4th generation)). Second, if you look at the model names of the Mac laptops, there might be a place for an iPad Pro.

No Touch ID

If you have become used to the convenience of Touch ID on your iPhone 5S, you are going to miss the lack of Touch ID on the new iPad. Why did Apple not include a fingerprint scanner on the iPads? Some analysts have suggested that the hardware components that make up Touch ID are supply constrained. Or maybe Apple wants to observe the success and challenges of Touch ID in the “consumer” devices that iPhones mostly are, before they bring it to the iPad which is going to be used more in corporate environments. Or perhaps they are just saving that feature for the iPad Pro.

iPad 2

Apple is still keeping the iPad 2 for sale. Many pundits are shocked at the thought of buying a tablet generation that was released in 2011. But many industries do not move as fast as the tablet business and they have very lengthy testing and approval processes. Take schools and airline pilots, for example. Other businesses may incorporate the iPad in a solution that still requires the 30-pin connector. These customers, who may buy large quantities of iPads, can rest assured that their standardized device will still be available for another year. As long as customers keep buying the iPad 2 (it accounted for 22% of all iPads sold last quarter), it doesn’t cost much for Apple to keep those production lines working.

iPad mini

The big question for the new iPad mini was if Apple was going to pull off a retina display this year. The answer is fortunately yes, but its just barely. The challenge is being able to produce sufficient number of display panels for the very large quantities of iPad minis that Apple sells every month. The iPad mini goes on sale “later in November” and there is no pre-ordering. It’s pretty clear that these devices are going to be supply constrained for the rest of this year. So if you’re planning on getting an iPad mini for the holidays, grab one as soon as you can.

What does it mean for app developers and app business owners?

There was no new category of device introduced today, so there’s no new screen size or other device capabilities that you need to consider. The iPad Mini went retina, but the old model remains on sale, along with the non-retina iPad 2. So you can’t drop your @1x assets quite yet.

The new iPad Mini has the new 64-bit A7 chip as well as the M7 chip. This certainly broadens the market for apps that take advantage of this new hardware. (Update: David Smith discovered that the new iPads don’t do step counting, even though they have the M7 chip.)

The iOS train keeps charging forward. Apple has sold over 700 million iOS devices to date. A great, and growing, target market. Even more important is that 64% have already upgraded to iOS 7. This makes the case even stronger for developing new apps for iOS 7 only, and leaving behind old iOS 6 code bases sooner rather than later. Your overall code will be so much simplified, resulting in lower maintenance costs and more time to focus on new features.

written by Nick \\ tags: , , ,