The Apple event on October 22 was very enjoyable. After Steve Jobs’s passing and the executive restructuring under Tim Cook, keynote after keynote I’ve seen a noticeable improvement in stage presence and confidence on the part of all the executives involved. Phil Schiller has always been the slickest of the bunch, and in the post-Jobs era he’s become even more playful and bolder during his presentations, cracking jokes with fearlessness and nonchalance. Federighi has come a long way since his nervous demo of Lion’s main features in the Back to the Mac event, three years ago. And even Cook’s delivery sounds a bit more confident, losing some of his “I have this speech memorised and I’m trying really hard to remember each word of it” way of addressing the audience. The October 22 keynote was a nice display of genuine confidence on Apple’s part.
The event, as the invite’s tag line suggested, had a lot to cover, and everything Apple introduced is great news. In this article I only want to get a couple of minor peeves out of my system. Bear with me if these observations may sound a little pedantic.
How to complicate a simple naming scheme
Let’s get back to the iPod for a moment. Since its introduction in 2001, the iPod has developed into a whole family of products, with different form factors and model lines. Yet the naming scheme has always been rather consistent: the main iPod model was always called “iPod”. Each iteration was officially identified with the ‘generation’ attribute (e.g. third-generation iPod, fourth-generation iPod, or even “iPod 3G”, “iPod 4G” etc.), and any ‘modifier’ appended to the iPod name was to clearly indicate another line of product, a different form factor: iPod mini, iPod nano, iPod shuffle. The ‘generation’ attribute was then passed to each line of product, and even a diverse family such as the iPod nano, with dramatic changes in shape from one generation to another, has retained the name “iPod nano” for seven generations.
Now let’s take Macs. From 2008 to 2011 there were three different models in the laptop line: the MacBook, the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. Three different designations that were necessary and made sense because those were three laptop models with very distinguishing features. The Pro was more powerful, with more ports and better materials than a regular polycarbonate MacBook. The MacBook Air was smaller, thinner, lighter than a MacBook Pro and a regular MacBook, and so on.
By now, you can imagine where I’m going with this: the iPad naming disaster.
I get the enthusiasm for creating that feat of engineering that is the new iPad Air, but calling the fifth-generation iPad with yet another name is starting to sound ridiculous. So far, each iteration of iPads has basically had a unique designation:
The addition of “Air” to the name iPad is more enthusiastic and impulsive than anything else. It is a clear reference to the MacBook Air, yet there is no other iPad with that screen size to differentiate it from. They still sell the iPad 2, you’ll rightly object. But to differentiate the new, fifth-generation iPad from the iPad 2 was enough to still call it “iPad with Retina display”. Evidently, at Apple they thought that the lightness and thinness of the new iPad deserved to be a more important distinguishing element than the Retina display, so now we have two regular size iPads — the iPad 2 and the iPad Air — and one who didn’t know better could actually wonder Where’s the regular iPad? or Where’s the iPad Pro? For a brief moment, when Schiller introduced the iPad Air, I was convinced they would expand the iPad family to include a third model, or that they would keep the fourth-generation Retina iPad as the ‘regular’ iPad, then the iPad Air and finally the iPad mini.
I know, it’s semantics and I’m being pedantic here (I warned you) — I’m really curious to know how the future sixth-generation iPad will be called: “the new iPad Air”? “The iPad Air 2”? Wouldn’t things have been simpler by sticking to a classic “n-generation iPad” designation?
“Today we’re going to revolutionise pricing,” announced Federighi in his wrap-up on OS X Mavericks, and I confess he made my day when he said that Mavericks was going to be free. Not because I didn’t want to spend the $20 I guessed Mavericks would cost, but because it’s a bold move in general, especially in combination with the choice of offering the new ‘Productivity and Creativity apps’ (the iLife and iWork suites, for OS X and iOS) for free to new customers.
But when wrapping up the new iPad family and announcing the various prices, I couldn’t help thinking What’s wrong with this picture?
Schiller said that Apple is keeping the old iPad 2 around to have an entry-level regular-size iPad for those looking to access the experience of a 9.7″ iPad through an affordable, non-Retina model. But that $399 price point feels wrong to me compared to the $499 of the new iPad Air in the exact same way the $549 price point of the iPhone 5C feels wrong compared to the $649 of the iPhone 5S.
If you examine that array of prices, every other iPad looks like a better deal than the $399 iPad 2.
1. For the same price you get an iPad mini Retina with the latest technologies inside. The screen size is smaller, but the Retina display gives much more density and clarity to whatever it’s displayed. And the mini is smaller and lighter.
2. If you’re willing to spend $399 for an old iPad, you can certainly see that adding $100 to your investment and going for the iPad Air is the more sensible and ‘forward thinking’ option.
3. If you’re really on a budget, I believe the $299 non-Retina iPad mini is still a better choice than the $399 iPad 2. It has better cameras and video recording capabilities, it has the newer Bluetooth 4.0 technology (the iPad 2 still has Bluetooth 2.1), it has the new Lightning adapter, and it features Siri (the iPad 2 does not).
I think that a better price point for the iPad 2 would have been $329. $399 is simply too close to the $499 of the new iPad Air.
- 1. One possible exception may be the iPod photo, which was available along with the regular iPod from late 2004 to spring 2005, and had the same form factor; the main difference was it being the first iPod with a colour screen. ↩
- 2. For more detailed information, you can see for example this article from Macstories. ↩