Apple Inc. released the highly anticipated iPad 2 – its successor to the iPad launched almost a year ago – on March 11, 2011 in stores across the United States, and on March 25 in twenty-five other countries. Consumers at locations nationwide lined up for hours to be the first to experience this abundantly marketed product. Countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong will receive it in April, and it is a safe assumption that the demand and consumer mayhem will be equal across the globe. The iPad 2 is priced at $499, similar to the original iPad, for 16GB with WiFi only, and starting at $629 for 16GB with WiFi and 3G (with a specific telecommunications carrier). It is currently available through Apple stores, authorized resellers and of course the online store, but U.S. stores reported to have almost immediately sold out by the end of the first weekend of sales. This impressive sales turnout can be seen as the result of Apple’s effective product promotion combined with consumer hype and anticipation of a more advanced and sophisticated version of an already impressive iPad 1. But this new iPad’s ability to improve the quality of daily life is still something of an open question.
The iPad 2 video available on the organization’s website talks about the product extensively. As one of the closing remarks, Apple Senior VP of Design Jony Ive says: “The original iPad defined a category. And I really think the iPad 2 will define that category for years to come.” That statement elicited the same kind of awe-inspired, subdued, open-mouth, starry-eyed response Apple elicits from me, as a consumer, every time the company presents me with an innovation. In my over-marketed, awe-inspired eyes, Apple seems to do no wrong. Every time I see a new Apple product I want it. It’s not a stretch to assume that other would-be consumers would have the same reaction too. If watching one promotional video once can turn an average, non-techie, cautious consumer like me into a believer, then I can only imagine what months of iPad fiddling, preemptive news watching, and rumor mill spinning can do to the tech-savvy Apple junkie. It’s safe to assume that Apple relies on these loyal fans to pocket the first few thousand (if not million) units of a new product as soon as it hits the market and somehow urge the skeptics to follow the trend.
In terms of promotion, think about that statement again and you will likely notice that it’s vague in content and conclusion. It states that the iPad defined “a category”. A category of what? Of information-processing gadgets? Of entertainment devices? Of communication media? And the answer might well be: “All of the above.”A likely immediate interpretation of the claim “the original iPad defined a category” is that ‘Apple has created something new’. But upon further thought, a potential consumer might start doubting the truthfulness of that idea.
Simply speaking, what type of product has Apple produced? A tablet. But computer tablets have existed before. The Motion F5v tablet PC allows you to work with files and forms, access the Internet through WiFi, and use a front-facing camera. The Dell Latitude XT tablet PC, which accepts both finger and stylus input, has been available since 2007. Two of the key factors that differentiate Apple from other electronic gadget companies are their product promotion and their branding power, carefully cultivated through the consecutive successes of their previous handheld products (i.e., the iPhone and iPods). Since Jony Ive’s statement can be seen as a testament to their unique product promotion, it doesn’t matter whether his statement was vague; Apple has already succeeded in getting at least some of their potential buyers to buy into the idea that the iPad is a truly innovative product.
Going into the Apple website you will be greeted by a semi-aerial view of the new iPad with the sentence “iPad 2 Thinner. Lighter. Faster. FaceTime. Smart Covers. 10-hour battery.” It outlines the advancements made from iPad 1– information that is helpful for consumers considering an upgrade or an investment. Computer companies usually make modifications of their older products and advertise the advantageous new features. But news reports claim that 1 million units of iPad 2 sold over its first weekend; the original iPad hit the 1 million mark only after 28 days of its release.
I don’t claim to have a list of factors explaining the difference in the rate of sales between the first version and the second version. But I do know this: my MacBook Pro is already thinner, lighter, and faster than other laptops (including my previous MacBook), its battery lasts for more than 6 hours and it allows for FaceTime. The main differences I can observe between my advanced laptop and the iPad is that it’s smaller (therefore, more travel-friendly) and it lacks an actual keyboard and trackpad – that effectively removes a medium for data entry between my fingers and the computer, and I can imagine it would make me feel more in-control.
The iPad 2 may be 30% thinner than the original iPad, it may be 15% lighter, two times faster, and nine times better in terms of graphic performance. It might have a camera both at the front and the back that makes it double the fun, and a screen cover that functions as a switch, a cover, a stand, and a cleaner that makes it qualitatively more valuable than the original.
The iPad itself can be argued as a true innovation, even though computer tablets have been available in the market years before; but to me it seems like just another prettier modification of an already excellently functioning product – not the iPad, but my laptop. You may argue that it’s not just a computer, it’s also fashion icon, a gleaming attestation to a higher socio-economic status. But whether it defines a category of ‘things that improve the daily business of my life’ is another question.
Jelyn Advincula is an international student from Hong Kong studying Communications in University of Toronto. Her interests are in the media industry, editing and writing. She likes to read popular literature, run, and travel.