Just before I wrote this, a small slice of Apple history
turned up on eBay, and with it an interesting insight into how Apple likes to
ration design improvements, bumping them into future versions of its products.
The prototype of the original iPad had one distinct feature, which was dual
ports, allowing it to be charged in both horizontal and vertical orientations.
This was a nice feature, because it allowed the iPad to play video in its
natural landscape mode when mounted on a dock. So where is this feature now?
Not available, or rather not in the current iPad, but that doesn’t exclude it
from future models, does it? The first iPad didn’t have a camera, but it was a
selling point of the second, and so on.
What Apple has learned, and which it’s taught the world, is
that you don’t put all your best ideas in the first, second or even third
incarnation of the device, because otherwise you’ll get to the point that the
iPhone has reached now, where you’re struggling to find new features to add.
This isn’t entirely unlike the problem that Microsoft faces
with each iteration of Office, where it comes up with increasingly unimportant
extras that nobody uses, or it even takes features away in a desperate attempt
to inject something ‘new’ into its software sales.
What other manufacturers would do under these circumstances
is provide a range of iPads, targeting different markets and pricing. But
Apple, or rather Steve Jobs, hated the idea of extensive product ranges and, as
such, it only makes two variants (WiFi and 3G+WiFi) and three different memory
sizes of each. That’s six different products, which, compared with many product
lines, is a very tight line-up indeed.
be a direction for the iPhone and iTouch, though they might have problems
getting people to pay more than $600 for a bendy piece of plastic
A number of pundits have vaunted the idea of a mini- or a
maxi- Pad, but this creates issues with the presentation of applications, a
wider product range that needs more tooling, and more subtle marketing. That
would suggest that Apple won’t take the iPad down that route, which begs the
question of which direction it will go in.
It’s registered some patents for a Kinect-like control
system so that iPad and iPhone users can operate their devices without leaving
smudgy prints on them, so we’re likely to see that, along with improved Siri
There’s also talk of glass that can resist smudges entirely
through a special coating, which doesn’t seem implausible. However, I think
we’ll see that on other tablets almost simultaneously, because the company with
this technology won’t be granting Apple an exclusive licence on something with
such wide application.
The next iPad will undoubtedly be better, but it seems
unrealistic to expect any radical departures from what’s already been seen.