It's hard not to love a week in which we are graced with two holidays. On Tuesday we had National Pancake Day, an unabashed marketing creation by the likes of IHOP to rekindle America's love affair with flapjacks. On Wednesday we celebrated National iPod Day, an equally-scripted spectacle by those maestros of tech marketing at Apple to fan the flames of tablet lust. The iPad 2 has been covered like a blanket this week, so by now most technophiles already know the essential new features and how it compares both with last year's model and this year's competition, but the key to Apple's success in this market can be found in the closing remarks of Jobs' keynote (see the stream here). Under his leadership, Apple has evolved a very different way of looking at technology; a viewpoint that sees tablets as a wholly new category, with uses and users distinctly unlike those of the PC. Truly, the rest of the technology industry is from Mars, while Apple is from Venus.The obvious, and most direct, contrast is between Apple and Google (and their hardware minions); lately played out in the tablet arena as the battle between the iPad and Motorola Xoom, with it's tablet-optimized Android 3 (Honeycomb) OS and interface. Most of this week's commentary his been a 'tale of the tape' showdown between the two -- both have dual-core CPUs, Xoom wins on display resolution, iPad on applications, Xoom is more expandable, iPad is thinner and lighter -- you've seen the litany. Yet these games of specsmanship miss the point. What will people actually do with these tablets and which will provide the easiest, most intuitive, and yes, fun, experience. Here, Jobs summarizes his, and by extension, Apple's, design philosophy -- the fundamental principles that result in not just functional, but delightful products -- and the reason iPad's competitors will likely continue settling for leftovers.
In front of a backdrop showing an iconic street sign marking the intersection of "technology" and "liberal arts", Jobs waxes:
"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. No where is that more true than in these post-PC devices."
"A lot of folks in this tablet market are rushing and looking at this as the next PC … they're talking about speeds and feeds, just like they did with PCs. Our experience says that is not the right approach. These are post-PC devices that need to be even easier to use than a PC, that need to be even more intuitive than a PC, and where the hardware, software and applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC."
Perhaps nothing illustrates this marriage of art and technology better than the new Garage Band iPad app -- a combination of device and software that may well change the way people make and perform music. These are the kinds of things Apple aspires to. Perhaps it's Jobs' personal health, a situation demanding one to face one's own mortality, that drives him to think big, beyond the "speeds and feeds". Whatever the cause, unless Apple's tablet competitors react, and react quickly, they will likely relive their MP3 nightmares and watch the iPad, like the iPod before it, define the tablet and become eponymous for an entire category.