Today Apple unveiled what's next for the iPad. Last night I wrote an article pointing out a number of things I hoped were in store for the iPad 2. Luckily, Apple delivered on several key things I feel are important to move this category. More importantly Apple has provided a glimpse of where the iPad and the tablet category at large is heading.
Moving Beyond a Hobbyist Gadget
If you recall the early days of the microcomputer, many proclaimed that the new invention was a toy only for hobbyists and enthusiasts. There were many early visionaries who understood what exactly the personal computer was and could become, but it wasn't until software like VisiCalc hit the scene that the microcomputer was truly turned into a productivity tool.
With the new GarageBand and iMovie for iPad, Apple has taken a similar step and shown us how the iPad is coming into its own as a tool to be used by more than just hobbyists and enthusiasts to consume content. Of course it can consume content, that much is proven. however the iPad is capable of something more. This is not to say that GarageBand and or iMovie for iPad are the single applications that will change tablets forever, instead they are a signpost and a solid first step in that direction. As Steve Jobs pointed out during his presentation that his hopes were that the software community go above and beyond the first party apps Apple creates.
As I stated in my article last night, an application like iMovie shines in a touch computing environment. iMovie is a typical OS X application used by many on the mouse and keyboard PC, yet in a touch computing environment the entire experience changes and becomes in some ways a more powerful tool for the job at hand.
Advancing Hardware Advances Software
Hardware, however, can't stand still if we want new and better software to be created. The iPad is clearly on its way to becoming a stand-alone computing device and Apple's continued advancements in their semiconductors shows they understand. By creating their own dual-core processor for the iPad 2 and optimizing their software to utilize this new performance, Apple has made a crucial hardware advancement. This advancement will not only benefit their software but also the software created by their rather formidable third party developer community.
By Apple's initial claims the new A5 dual core processor delivers up to 2x faster performance over the first generation iPad and 9x graphics performance. Software benefits from this kind of continued advancement in semiconductor performance, and if history is any indication we are just scratching the surface with software in this category.
From Toy to Tool
If people were not convinced yet that we are in the post PC era hopefully today will change their mind. The devices that we grew up knowing and loving called computers have evolved. A PC does not need to be a clamshell device with a physical keyboard and mouse in order to still do computing and perform productive tasks. Apple has proven this and hopefully provided a glimpse to the software community about what is possible. Today may very well serve as an inflection point for tablets as we look back in several years at how tablets have become not just essential entertainment tools but also tools for productivity and content creation. If that comes true we will have to credit Apple with at least playing a role as a catalyst to move this category forward, if not the catalyst that developed the market.
In my mind we are just scratching the surface with touch computing and software that takes advantage of touch to let us compute in new and amazing ways. This much is clear tablets are more than simply consumption devices. Those who make tablets or tablet software with consumption only in mind will be missing out entirely on what is actually happening in this market. As Apple and others put great hardware on the market it becomes the tasks of software visionaries to utilize it. Much like what happened with VisiCalc in the early days of computing we are just now scratching the surface and I can't wait to see what amazing software gets created.