iPad: It’s more than just the hardware

by Jim Dalrymple   |   March 15th, 2012

It seems that every time a new tablet comes on the market, people compare the hardware to Apple’s market leading iPad and wonder if this is the one that will dethrone it. The problem with this thinking is that the iPad isn’t just about the hardware and specs, it’s the experience.

iPad screen imageCompanies like Samsung can put together a piece of hardware that is similar — although still not as good — as the iPad, but they still lack the infrastructure that makes the iPad appealing to consumers.

People generally don’t care as much about specs as they do about what they can do with the device. You can list off the specs for the new iPad and people will just nod politely and smile.

However, if you tell them that with iCloud all of their information will be across every Apple device they own, including computers, you can see a light go off.

Explain to people that with iTunes Match they can access their entire music library without taking up any space on the iPad, and they will get that.

These are the things, in combination with the hardware, that make the iPad what it is. These are also the things that continue to elude Apple’s competitors.

No other company in the tablet or smartphone space have the infrastructure that Apple does. In that respect, Apple is almost 10 years ahead of its competitors.

Apple started building the foundation for what we see today with the release of the first iPod. Then with the release of iTunes, to give users a hub for syncing music and the iTunes Store, the company was well on its way controlling online sales of media.

Of course, the iTunes Store has expanded greatly since those early days and now sells movies, music videos, TV shows, and now apps for its mobile devices. That really tipped the scales.

A consumer with an iPad can purchase everything they need directly from Apple. All of the music or other media they may want, and keep all of their information synced between multiple devices. The best part is, it’s all done by simply entering your Apple ID.

When I picked up my new iPad from Apple after the event in San Francisco last week, I had it set up in minutes. I entered my Apple ID and all of my contacts, calendars and email were there waiting for me.

Not only that, I had access to all of the apps I purchased — no searching through the store trying to remember what I bought. I tapped 20 or so apps and they installed. My Apple ID also synced my iTunes Match music so I was listening, syncing and productive within minutes of having the device in my hands. I didn’t even need a computer.

All of my purchases in one place, instantly.

That can’t be matched in the market today. And it’s not for lack of trying. Other companies have tried to duplicate what Apple does, but they always come up short.

Apple has a way of making difficult tasks seem very easy. It’s mind boggling to think of all of the things going on in the background on an iPad, but all the consumer sees is their data is synced and they can access their media. That’s the way it should be.

While companies like Samsung and other tablet makers boast about specs, Apple explains what you can do with the iPad. You can create music with apps like GarageBand, edit images with iPhoto, record 1080p video, write documents, make spreadsheets, play games, create presentations and many other things with the more than 200,000 native iPad apps.

The iPad is about the experience and Apple has that locked up.

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Jim Dalrymple

Jim Dalrymple has been reporting on Apple for almost 20 years and has written for many industry publications. Jim currently runs The Loop, a technology focused blog, and plays guitar in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter or visit his Web site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesgowan James Gowan

    Thanks, Jim! Also, Enjoyed you on The Talk Show this week, talking about the iPad “3″ with Dan Benjamin.

    http://5by5.tv/talkshow/82

    James

  • We J

    Just be careful you don’t ever buy any content from… well… anyone else.

    • Steven Fisher

      Why is that?

    • rolphus

      iTunes Match is perfectly happy to take all of my music, purchased from wherever I want (or not purchasable at all, such as live or promotional recordings) and store it for me, so it’s accessible wherever I want. They’ll even take the relatively crappy 192 kbit MP3s I bought a while ago and upgrade them to 256 kbit AAC for me, if the song is available in the iTunes store.

      Of course, this is only music.

      In the US, you can take those “digital copy” codes you get with some Blu-Ray discs and use them to authorise access to a downloadable and streamable HD copy of the same movie, on any Apple device.

      • mhikl

        kudos :)

    • Adam

      You mean like the Kindle store, Netflix, Hulu, and multiple other services that you can buy content from and use on the iPad

    • OgilvyTheAstronomer

      Strange – I’ve bought plenty of content from Amazon that I enjoy on my iPhone. Am I doing it wrong?

      • Beltonbraces

        Quite clearly you are. You’re knee is not jerking fast enough and you’ve ended up writing something intelligent and rational.

        For shame.

  • RawBob

    “you can see a light go off.”

    um, wouldn’t a light go ON?

  • mhikl

    “No other company in the tablet or smartphone space have the infrastructure that Apple does. In that respect, Apple is almost 10 years ahead of its competitors.”

    What I find stunning is that no one else has emulated the iTune experience. What could any of them have been thinking over these years, ten of them? Ten years is an awfully long time to think and act but no thunking seems to be going on and now there are three devices ruling this coop; can we really call that four with that antiquated object of technology, the computer being included . . . but now I am off topic.

    We keep waiting for Apple to make some major misstep into that outhouse abyss that hp and Dell seem to find themselves, but we are to be let down to what could have been the greatest possible tumble of all time, it seems, as Apple plods on and on, step by iteration. Indeed, Apple is the great plodder. No grandiose knock’em out bunnies pulled from this magician’s hat of hard knocks, at least not since the iMac took the world by storm, saving Apple’s sorry aspects. It took iterations for the iPod, iterations for the iPhone and now two iterations for tablet iPad to get the accolades deserved. And I suspect and, too, agree that it is all due to iTunes, the much maligned little jam machine that could.