The Third Version's Always A Charm

ipad 3

Photo: Theodore Ritz | Business Insider

The iPad 3 adheres to the old saw in technology that there is magic in version 3. While it is
true that this is in part due to how wonderfully rich the app ecosystem has become, from a pure
hardware perspective, the combination of a 264 dpi display and a lightning fast cellular network
is about as magical as the many reviews have claimed.At HP, the ink and paper crowd was always obsessed with what was known as the “300 dpi
barrier,” the thought being that until affordable displays got there, there would still be plenty of
room for consumers printing the stuff that wasn’t going to get stuck to the refrigerator. From my
perspective, the pre retina iPad had already eliminated that for most of the universe of printable
disposable content, but this new display has killed one of the last bastions of the printed page:
the mixed content (text & graphs), multi-column, full page (usually) PDF document. Just this
weekend I was reading a Comscore report with a number of tables & graphs and for the first
time ever, I didn’t feel the need to print any part of it out. Incidentally, this was the market for the
Kindle DX but unfortunately that device was never general purpose enough to merit its price tag.

And on the network side, it is hard to explain the improvement until you experience it. Or rather,
it is easy to conceptually understand the impact of more bandwidth, and slightly less easy but
still possible to grok lower latency. But LTE feels ever better than the sum of those two factors.
Quite simply it just feels more immediate. Struck by what the cause might be for this, I spent a
little time poking around the Qualcomm site and came across this paper (consumed on the retina
display of course) that argued that startup time from a “cold modem” (one which starts from an
idle state) is quite a bit faster on an LTE connection than on a HSPDA (3G) one (about 3X),
driven largely by improvements in signaling. And while it is true that most tablets live and die on
wifi (92% of data traffic according to Comscore is coming from Wifi connections as opposed to
25-50% for smartphones), I think the speed of this modem may be about to begin to change that
particular “leave at home” use pattern.

In fact, for the first time since the launch of the original iPad, I am now convinced that we’ve got
a fundamentally different platform for which a new class of productivity applications ought to
emerge. Something like the new iPhoto but on steroids since it should go way beyond leveraging
the direct manipulation interface to using both the resolution of the display and the network in
new and unexpected ways. It’s too early to tell but my money is on new types of collaborative
applications that leverage the high pixel density to navigate large datasets and the realtime nature
of persistent and lightning-fast connectivity to put the collaboration in environments where
users have been forced on “batch” mode for compute resources. Architects, field folks, and even
presenters at conferences are a few of the examples I can think of for starters.

Finally, it bears mentioning that the iPad3 will likely not remain the only entrant (nor even
necessarily the dominant entrant) in the market now that it has defined the spec that everyone
else needs to hit now that it has, at least in my mind, validated the category as more than a
portable television crossed with a poor man’s laptop.

I am sold. Down with laptops and up with the strokable slates!

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