Apple iPad event: Why Apple is still ahead of the pack
Apple has led the way in the tablet market and this evening's launch of the iPad 2 will keep them ahead of the competition.
When Steve Jobs took to the stage in San Francisco last January to announce the iPad he presented the world with a device he called "magical".
Apple fans were enraptured but the sceptics dismissed the new tablet computer as merely ‘a big iPod touch’.
On the face of it, that’s what the iPad is but to truly understand what makes it ‘magical’ you need to get your hands on one.
It responds so perfectly to the touch that it really feels like you are moving objects around with your fingers.
It’s seamless; at no point do you sense the computer that sits underneath, drawing pixels in response to your touch.
That’s the real genius of the iPad - the way it feels - and it’s clear from looking at some of the weaker tablet competitors that such responsiveness is no mean feat.
And this time around there are many competitors. The iPad went on sale in the US on Good Friday 2010 and in the UK at the end of May.
It quickly surpassed expectations and by the end of the year Apple had sold almost 15 million iPads worldwide. It’s no surprise that the competition wanted to get in on the act.
A year on from the launch of the iPad there are tablet computers everywhere. Toshiba, Asus and even Next - yes, the clothes people - have jumped into the tablet market.
The problem for the competition is that Apple has now delivered a new iPad while many of them are on their first version. The new one is likely to be slimmer, lighter and faster than its predecessor and it comes with a camera too, for videoconferencing.
The new iPad will certainly raise the bar, perhaps only a little, but it will be a higher bar nonetheless. Carolina Milanesi, of analysts Gartner, said that Apple still leads the tablet market. “The experience that you get is a different experience,” she said.
She added that the new iPad “will put more pressure on competitors”.
Apple has been steadily refining and improving its operating system, iOS, since the release of the iPad, while Android users had to wait until last month for Honeycomb, the first version of Google’s operating system to be designed specifically for tablets.
Motorola’s Xoom tablet, the first Honeycomb-powered device, has just been released in the US, to generally positive reviews, but still does not have a European release date.
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated BlackBerry PlayBook is likely to launch in the US later this month but even that is not confirmed.
At the moment it is Samsung that holds second place. Its Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet released last September, received very favourable reviews and the company has a new, 10-inch, version ready to go head-to-head with the iPad next month.