an open question is whether Verizon Wireless will offer a free upgrade to 4G as
the company is doing with the Xoom tablet. If it doesn't, the iPad will start
off at a notable disadvantage compared with the Xoom, and that disadvantage
will only become more pronounced-the iPad will be slower than the Xoom as soon
as the upgrades start and it would just get worse as time goes along.
While data speeds don't define a tablet device, they do
have an impact on what you can do with it. The AT&T iPhone can only do
video chats using WiFi. It's a pretty safe bet that the new 3G iPad will have
the same limitation. With Verizon Wireless already building out its LTE
network, it's a safe bet that video chats from anywhere in the 4G footprint will
Of course, the 4G network will also make streaming video
more effective and less likely to be a problem, as it has been with AT&T's
beleaguered 3G network. But without a 4G upgrade path, the iPad is more likely
to be seen as a limited device. Although it would be less limited on Verizon's
more extensive network, still, 3G isn't the same thing as 4G.
The other battle Apple is fighting is the perception that
the Motorola Xoom is winning the innovation war. While nobody will know that
for sure until we get a chance to try a Xoom and an iPad 2 side by side, the
fact is that the current iPad seems dated already. When the Xoom comes out on
Feb. 24, it will seem even more dated. The fact that the Xoom will sell for
about the same price as the iPad in a similar configuration and that it is
designed to move to 4G for free only hits the iPad a couple more times.
Clearly, Apple has to do something now. The Xoom will
launch before anyone finds out what's in the iPad 2, but long after Apple is in
a position to do much about the feature set. Still, Apple needs to pre-empt the
claim to innovation before the walls start to fall in, what with another
Android 3.0 tablet coming from Samsung, the WebOS tablet coming from HP, plus
other models coming from nearly everywhere. While Apple got the tablet ball
rolling, this ball has already gained so much momentum that Apple will have to
do everything it can to keep up-it might even have to provide things its
customers demand like an SD slot.
Whether that actually happens or not remains to be seen.
Apple has done very well by being cool even at the cost of design. It's hard to
say whether Apple's coolness is enough this time.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÃÃÃs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.