Year of the iPad 2

The late Steve Jobs called 2011 "the year of the iPad 2" and almost a year after it was introduced, almost 2 years after the original iPad was introduced, it remains a product selling in the tens of millions with absolutely no competition in sight.

And that's a shame because, as a consumer, the one thing I want most is strong, meaningful competition for the iPad.

It's become a cliche to say "there's no tablet market, there's only an iPad market", but like most cliches there's more than a little truth to it. Very few people want a tablet. Not in the 10 years prior to the iPad when Microsoft sold Tablet PC to almost no one, and not in the almost two years since when Apple's competition has tried to differentiate themselves by being more like PCs.

The simple truth is, the iPad was never designed to be a tablet. It was never designed to be a PC crammed into a slate form factor. Like they did with command line on the Apple II, and graphical interfaces on the Mac, and multitouch on the iPhone, Apple strove to make something that was more mainstream, more accessible than what had come before. It just turned out to look like a tablet.

For many people, PCs -- personal computers -- are anything but. They're complicated, impenetrable stacks of boxes and webs of cables, with mice that never move right, buttons that never click right, windows that hide other windows, programs that make little sense, and files and folders that are as frustrating to find as they are to figure out how to use. They're like cars back in the days when you had to be a mechanic to own and operate one, and very few people did.

The iPad is the opposite of that. You turn it on. You click home. You tap an app. You click home. You tap another app. You know where you are and if you get lost you're always only a click away from getting back to some place familiar. It's more approachable. It's more understandable. It does 80% of the things 80% of the people need 80% of the time and that, it turns out, is a huge swathe more than most PCs could ever do for most people.

That's why Apple is selling a so many of them, and why their competitors aren't.

To compete with Apple, everything from RIM's PlayBook to Google's Android Honeycomb tablets offered more specs and more desktop-class power. To the exact people who wanted anything but.

Powerful multitasking metaphors don't help people who think their internet is gone because their browser is lost behind their word processor. Flash doesn't help mainstream consumers who have no idea what it is, even if their more obscure web video sites don't play without it. Tegra II processors don't help wives who just want to know why their messages won't scroll without sticking and stammering. Bezel gestures and on-screen widgets don't help people who just, for once in their technology plagued lives, want simple controls, for a simple screen, that does one app at a time and does it very, very well. Copying the iPad's look won't help when the software running it doesn't work with anything approaching the same simplicity or feel.

Apple understood this back in 2005 when they started work on the Safari Pad concept, and while even they didn't full get it when they made it manifest in 2010, they got it enough to release the iPad, and they got it even more in 2011 with the iPad 2, iOS 5, and iCloud.

It's not about being thinner, or lighter, or faster. It's not about specs or about content. It's about experience. And now, as we enter 2012, as Apple is poised to release an iPad 3 with a Retina display that runs mobile software even better than GarageBand and iMovie, not a single one of their competitors have gotten that yet.

Until they do, until Amazon or Google or someone else puts the mainstream customer first, every year for the foreseeable future will be the year of the iPad.

iPad 2 hero

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Year of the iPad 2

46 Comments

Enjoy it while it lasts. Much like the phone market eventually Android will lead. If not Windows 8. Its just how these things go. I hope Apple does something new on the tablet front with iOS 6.

Daniel, is that lead in units, in profit, or in quality? The consumers eventually make the final decision (and the market), not us geeks. Oh, did you happen to see the latest news, that the iphone accounted for 66% of ATT's corporate store sales, and Android 9% ? What about the stats that developers make tons more on iPhone apps, than Android? Yep, Android is indeed going to sell many more units than the iPhone. And thats going to continue. And Chevy's are going to continue to sell many more cars than BMW.

Have to agree with some of this. The vast majority of our clients only care about iOS. The rest want both Android and iOS versions of their apps.
As for our own apps, we lean more toward iOS apps (or at least start with the iOS version first) mainly because when we look at the metrics, our iOS apps are much more profitable by a very large margin.
Android devices may be selling more but even Google is trying to figure out how to get app sales up. I'm not sure why that is but my hypothesis is that Android buyers buy their devices because of the device (they just want xyz device) while iOS users buy their device because of the ecosystem (they want xyz device because of the apps and integration). So while the Android user stops at the purchase of his/her device, the iOS user see's their device purchase as the "beginning" or entry point into a suite of app/accessories, etc.

"Enjoy it while it lasts."

I have. Since the early 80s. You're also still waiting for Jesus, aren't you?

Cant speak for @fastlane, but will this be less offensive to you?
"So you're also still waiting for Jah, aren't you?"
One love, my brothas and sistas.

I'm finally calling BS on this 'it needs a competitor to get better' mantra that goes around. Apple's own best competition is themselves. Their greatest challenges are those they set themselves. Their most demanding customers are their internal quality control. This idea that Apple needs to be 'kept on its toes' by some half-baked competition is BS. They innovate because they are passionate, not because Samsung released yet another clone. Here endeth the fanboy lesson ;)

I think you need to take a look at the slow pace of innovation in iPods (note that Apple didn't even release a new iPod at all this year) to see what happens when Apple has no competition.

Every iPhone is an iPod, they dont need to innovate in that segment too much. And i think they are way ahead other music players with the iPod touch. I dont need another device in my pocket just for music, i already have it in my iPhone, what i need, maybe, is some new features on the software side of music listening/discovering.

Sheesh, another fanboi. Rabid apple promoters who can't see a flaw because it is a feature. If Apple ipad did business apps with the same ease the Office Word does they'd sell more. Is there an office suite that it totally compatible with Word? No. Calendar. Takes 13 or so steps to enter a single appointment on an apple product. The 13 year old palm calendar was better. How many steps? 5 or fewer. Press the calendar button, unlock, write the appointment directly on the calendar. Exit.
Spare me the fanboi noise. Till apple comes up with some serious business apps like the Word suite and fixes that calendar the ipads are just overgrown ipod touches.

Can't wait for the iPad 3 , I have an iPad 1 since day 1 when it came out and use it every morning when drinking my coffee and reading flipboard to catch up on the news. That's what a newspaper used to be for. Retina display will be awesome !

It's the year of the iPad 2 for me. And I got my iPad for Christmas! One I restored my iPad from an iPhone 4S backup from the previous night and saw the magic, I was a believer. The iPad truly is magical. Hope everyone has a great new year! Year of the "iPhone 5, retina display MacBooks/iPads"??

No competitor is sight... Really, Rene?
I suppose that is why the Kindle Fire is not mentioned - it would nullify the eloquent but wrong thesis of your initial paragraph. Never let facts get in the way of a good story, y'know?
Rene himself has written several articles recently comparing the Fire and iPad 2. So there certainly is competition - and by the volume that Amazon is selling them, it is certainly "in sight". Yes, the iPad 2 is the CLEAR market leader. But that still doesn't excuse hyperbole.

But what about all those commercials for other tablets? Just because I never ever see them in the wild, does't mean it wasn't their year too. Think of all the ad men who profited off of the non-iPad 2s. They made out like bandits!

A very good rally cry but I'll gladly hold it for claim chowder. :-D
No competition yet the iPad dropped from 90%+ to 70+. That's not including the multiple millions sold by Amazon in the first 6'sh weeks.
:-D Good stuff though.

The Kindle Fire can hardly be compared to an iPad. You might as well compare a walkie talkie to an iPhone! LOL! Good try though! I actually got a Kindle Fire for my mother for Christmas because all she will do is read books on it and surf the web. Those who are serious get iPads. Even amongst Android diehards. Android isn't ready.

So why do so many iOS enthusiast spend so much time trying to compare the two, and knock the Kindle Fire for not being an iPad. I've bought three so far and every user I've given it to you loves it.

It seems the Android devotees are the ones always making the comparisons - iPad killer here, iPad killer there.
Remember the Motorola Xoom commercial that ran this time last year mocking Apple? Now Samsung ( or is it HTC ) is running a silly ad mocking Apple fans waiting in line for the next device. It makes them look petty and out of touch - the competition continues to be baffled and frustrated at the Apple phenomenon and how dedicated consumers are to their products.
Until iPad competitors pull their head out and get it right, the tablet market will continue to be dominated by Apple. Yes, the Kindle Fire is a nice entry level device and will capture market share, as my wife uses one. But I don't see here doing Keynote presentations, creating Excel or Numbers files or using Go To Meeting for Webinars on it anytime soon.....

As if Apple hasn't attacked, jokingly or otherwise, a competitor in an ad.
I don't see anyone doing those things on their iPad. My wife has one, pastors at my church, etc and all I see is gameplay and note taking. Just cause you use yours like that doesn't mean the Fire isn't "worthy" because it is geared to be media consumption over productivity apps.

Robes, who compared them? I never did.
Those who are serious about what? Fire is for play and iPad is a serious device?
Rhetorical. People who are serious get what they want within their budget; iPad or otherwise.

Mr. Bland, as done so frequently in the past, you completely missed the point to where you appear to grandstand.....and if you do not see people do the many things for business on their iPads, you either are not looking, or you don't get out much. I work for a Fortune 100 company and in my industry, the iPad is the gold standard for sales reps to Sr. management for order entry, sales training Webinars, Keynote presentations, etc. Not just where I work, but competitors alike. Maybe it is not applicable to your industry or what you do for a living.......
And, you make a devise as "serious" as you want to make it. If someone wants an iPad to look at pretty pictures, so be it. If someone wants a Kindle Fire to view the Internet, then good for them too.
When the iPad was launched in March 2010 everyone called it an iPhone on steroids that had no place in the business world. With the help of software developers and the multitude of business apps out there, I use my laptop about 10% of the time now and it is safe to say I am not the only one out there who is in the same boat.
But don't try and misinterpret my words.......

Yep. iPad is most definitely used for serious business as well as "fun". We've built quite a few iPad-specific apps requested by clients to run their business on. The FAA just approved iPads in cockpits (this is huge). Entire school systems are adopting the iPad. One of our clients no long issues laptops to their techs because they issue iPads instead. I definitely see more "business" being done on iPads than any other tablet.

Bob, no one "tries" to misinterpret words and in no way did I. You stated "But I don’t see here doing Keynote presentations, creating Excel or Numbers files or using Go To Meeting for Webinars on it anytime soon….." and I merely pointed out I never see that anyway.
You're in biz and see your circle of people do that. My point is because you see people doing it doesn't make the Fire less relevant because you don't believe she'll use GoTo Meeting on it any time soon, which will be because she chooses not to or doesn't have that need because it is available right now on the Fire: http://www.amazon.com/Citrix-Online-GoToMeeting/dp/B006CYE2HK/ref=sr1sc_1?s=mobile-apps&ie=UTF8&qid=1325541026&sr=1-1-spell.
The "serious" comment was for Robes and was rhetorical.

@Taharka Yep, the iPad is great for biz or play. Robes comment was foolish, IMO, so I was shedding light on that piece.
Yeah, the aviation and school deals have taken off incredibly. A school here, in Houston, has them in their classrooms. I wish I was in school again. :-D lol. We had Oregon Trail on an old Macintosh. haha.

I was an Android diehard until my wife bought me an iPad 2 for Christmas. Now I am in love with IOS. I feel like I have some freedoms with Android that I don't have IOS 5 but with those freedoms comes frustration with apps that don't work or slow things way down. I love the simplicity of IOS and how things work so smoothly and seamlessly. Now I can't wait to get rid of my Droid X and get an iPhone. Year do the iPad 2, for me, you betcha.

I had the exact same experience... I replaced an Android phone with a Windows Phone (loved it) and then replaced the Windows Phone with an iPhone 4S (loved it even more). In terms of interface quality and usability, I'd rank them in that order from best to worst: iPhone > Windows Phone > Android

Nice article. The one thing I'd dispute is the claim that people want 'anything but' better specs and desktop power. It's not that they don't want it, it's that they don't care about it. If the iPad 2 had those things they'd still want the iPad 2 (which I'm using at the moment) just as much because it wouldn't take anything away from the experience. Think antagonism -vs- apathy.

Interesting comments, i use iPads since they came to the market and I love it, i even wrote a paper about it and predict many of the features of v2 a year before Apple launched. As an educational technologist i seen very clear that people have different ideas of what is a functional interface and what is not. Many people will never buy an iPad because their perception is that a tablet computer should have a laptop-like functionality. I being testing Windows 8 for the last 2 months in a couple of tablets and I certainly can see that this version has a promising future as Microsoft redesigned the interface and runs very smooth on Intel Atom processor. There are currently developers that are creating applications and the beauty is that you dont need to learn objective C, you can use JavaScript or any other language, this will have an interesting impact on the offer of applications for Win 8 tablets. I am sure many people who want a tablet with a functionality of a laptop will buy a Windows 8 tablet. I believe the iPad is an unique product and I dont think anyone is compiting with them. The companies that are producing tablets (android or Win 7) will have a niche regardless the iPad being so popular. In the case of the smartphones is different, i guess Android will be the leader in the market in 2 years time. The fact that many well-know companies are using the platform will make Android phones massive and yes more massive that the iPhone, lets wait a couple of years or so and talk again. I am an Android user and what i like about this platform is that is more flexible with an open source coding and more challenging to use in comparisson with the iPad, it triggers my brain to discover how to use the device and increase my self-efficacy using different software/applications.
Finally, i dont think there is a better or worse platform/device, all depends on the users and their budget, use and time they want to put into their devices. I truly believe that technological diversity is a great thing and makes my roll as educational designer more challenging. What I dont get is people obsessed with one type of platform as a degree that make them arrogant and to think their devices are the best in their world. Maybe that is the effect of marketing on users that causes to lost objetivity and to think outside of the square than different people have different needs, simple!

"I am an Android user and what i like about this platform is that is more flexible with an open source coding and more challenging to use in comparisson with the iPad" Really? You are kidding right? You must have plenty of time on your hands to like a challenge in getting a product to work...most of us don't have that time nor do we wish to tinker and mess about to do actual work on our tablet. Or worry our information is being hacked by some moron or collected and sold by an unscrupulous company like Google.
I am constantly amused by people who say stuff like .... android is open source...because in reality- ITS NOT...I am also constantly bewildered by people who love a device that has an operating system that not only is a cesspool that attracts all the hackers on the net but has actual companies loading it to the gills with information bleed and leech software...without the knowledge of the user.
Even the company that created this mess, Google, acknowledges that Android is NOT OPEN SOURCE, now, after lying to people for months that it was. They, Google, are also BY FEDERAL COURT ORDER to be monitored for the NEXT 20 YEARS for privacy violations...that is, they use information that people thought was private without those persons consent. I am amazed that people still want to use this clunky chunky software and think its sooo amazing and wonderful.
The ipad and future devices that use iOS will always have far more synergy than any other device made because the hardware and software are built for each other. It is not some wonky cut and paste and tape job that is sliced and diced and thrown like some left over chunk of junk onto whatever cheapo product they can slap it onto like android.
As for windows...they will never get it right..why...they have had all the resources in the world to create a smooth, reliable and beautiful product, THEY STILL HAVE NOT MADE ONE YET! Windows 8? Really? It will be updating every few days with security holes just like windows 7..6..5..4..3..2..and DOS. Give it a rest. The talent just is not there. It takes more than an army of code writers to create something wonderful. Android proves that and so does Windows.
For those who cry about iOS being a "closed garden" Cry some more please...there are over half a million apps thats 500k, available to do just about anything humanly possible with the iphone and over 30k for the ipad. Think about that for a second.... 500,000+.That is a HUGE GARDEN isn't it. How long do you think it would take you to browse all those apps?
How is android more flexible? The fact that its FREE to the wonky device manufacturers and then they lock it up? The fact you can change the way your little buttons look? Really? That is flexibility right? Give it a rest. PLEASE!

"You must have plenty of time on your hands to like a challenge in getting a product to work…most of us don’t have that time nor do we wish to tinker and mess about to do actual work on our tablet."
That applies to any tablet. Especially an ipad.
Your 500k apps? It's like 500 channels and nothing on with most still watching the major networks like Facebook.
Try doing any kind of spreadsheet lately with any iOS version of an office program? I'd rather jump off a bridge. Short of simple docs, iWork is useless.
If i can play videos, play games, browse web, do email, read books, comics, pdfs, and remote into a PC, then that's what defines a tablet for me. But it's not worth 829 to do this. And 499 is pushing it. This is the problem for competitors. Because charging any less means little profit.
If i had to enter this market and try to be successful (which is what this article is about), i'd shoot for a small percentage of it and higher premium branding than the mainstream leader..apple. I'd target the geek segment or developers. HP had something with webOS, just no vision of what to do with it.
What if HP had introduced that super high res sleek Touchpad with a supported complete sdk for devs? And a similar 4" or more slab phone? They were one of the few embracing Homebrew which is key. Invest a few billion in setting up or acquiring some core services. Provide some black tie customer service. And demand that profit margin. It's a travesty in what they actually did as they showed they understood very little about this market.

The thing is, we, as well as most readers of TIPB, aren't the mainstream.
We can say that company B needs to embrace the mainstream or whatever. Sure..if that company wants to be successful.
But be careful what you wish for. With apple, we're nothing more than walking itunes accounts with credit cards to be leveraged. This comes first for Apple or else we'd see a jailbreak by now or apps on the apple tv.
I like experience and "it just works" as well as the next guy but I want to have some control over it. This is what is frustrating about icloud, itunes match, and iOS in general. It makes these features half baked to me.
And it will keep me having an eye out for the competition.
When something gets mainstreamed, the geeks (such as us) are going to want something better. Be careful what you wish for. In a way, i wish HP would have imagined webOS as a premium brand, elevated above apple's with highest end hardware. It's the only way they could have survived.
So while Apple still wins for me, for now, my excitement isn't exactly growing. I think its waning because they're really locking things down. I'm hoping 2012 means Apple loosening up and giving US, not the mainstream, some things we want.
An ipad without a retina screen would be a bad start. A new apple tv without an offering of streaming apps would be bad. Not updating icloud, no navigation solution in iOS, etc, would be bad. Taking a neutral stance on jailbreaking, which would give us a nod and that the mainstream would ignore, would be great.

I have an IPad, but I received a Kindle Fire for the holidays. I find it very lacking as even an IPod touch can do more than the Fire can. However, lots of people have Fires and love them. So it's strange, if not foolhardy to ignore this legit competition to the current leader in the tablet market. Which is why this article is flawed from it's headline to it's opening lines.

"until Amazon or Google or someone else puts the mainstream customer first..."
That, is it, in a nutshell.
When you look at all of Apple's 'tentpole' hits down the years, 'it's all about mainstreaming what already exists.

I owned a iPad 1, touchpad, galacy 10.1 and now iPad 2 and I can say that webs had the potential to dethrone the iPad but it was on bad hardware at a bad price and the OS didn't have enough available apps. an iPad 2 with webOS and the apple app store would be a killer device. But as it is ebOS isdead and Android is insisting on using the worst imaginable form factor on a terribly non-optimized OS (why can a dual core tablet not play fruit ninja smoothly when my iPad 1 had no problem)

I will say this...despite the vast number of Android devices being sold, third party businesses who advertise their mobile apps almost always use the phrase, "find us (follow/track/use our services, etc) on your iPhone or mobile device!" or "Now available on the iPad and Tablet PCs." Each time I see that, it makes me think about every mobile manufacturer out there that, despite varying efforts, is lumped in with "mobile device", "Android device" and "tablet PCs." Have you seen an ad for an app that now runs on the Thunderbolt? I haven't. There are too many "other" devices out there and none of them can draw third party businesses individually because it's either iOS or Android. If its iOS, there are a small class of devices to work with. Android means...well, everything else. Even if a manufacturer creates the über-iDevice-killer, they still have to contend with how the market sees their accessibility...and that is under a larger, generic umbrella. ...IMHO

No.
Apple has exceptional name recognition, so much so that even the incredibly technology ignorant middle aged marketing execs who write that crap know about it. That's why people talk about iPhones so much. It's the only word they know for that type of technology.
Yes, Apple is a leader in the mobile space, but don't kid yourself into thinking they are so unassailable simply because people who know almost nothing about technology know what its called.