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Why Apple's iPad Air raises the bar in tablet computing

by Ben Bajarin

October 27 2013

Ben Bajarin is Director of the Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies, a strategy consulting firm in Silicon Valley.


It is easy to look at the newly announced iPads, focus only on the less-than-dramatic hardware changes, and believe that Apple has lost its magic. However, when you look at the whole story Apple is developing around the iPad, you will notice that the software is becoming a bigger part of the story than the hardware.

Tablet hardware innovation isn't dead, but ...

Apple has been making fundamental improvements each year to the iPad. The new iPad Air is now the thinnest and lightest full size tablet on the market. But where else can we go with hardware?

Apple may be able to make them a bit more light and thin but we are hitting a point in tablet hardware where we need to expect and appreciate the improvements because pushing the bounds of innovation will not come every year and in fact it won't come even every few years.

Value shifting to software

While the A7 is a big deal from a hardware standpoint, it translates into value for consumers at the software level. The A7 is a desktop class processor that can run desktop class applications on the iPad. This is a big deal.

Apple now has the ability to pull away from the competitive tablet field with the 64-bit A7 processor and the creation of desktop class application running on new iPads. No other tablet on the market will be able to make this claim for a while and even when they do, the desktop class apps may be few and far between.

To get a quick sample of where this is headed just look at two of Apple's own apps, GarageBand and iMovie. 

The new Garageband can support up to 32 tracks of audio for input and editing. It can also process desktop class effects on those tracks essentially creating a powerful mobile recording and editing studio on your iPad.

When making a movie with iMovie you can now use transition and video effects that were not previously possible on a mobile device and turn your iPad into a full mobile video studio that lets you add background music, sound effects, and voiceover narration to your movie. And with new advanced audio tools, you can trim, split, duplicate, and reposition audio anywhere in the timeline.

Now, while these and other new apps also run on older iPads, the speed and effectiveness of the apps to integrate a smoother workflow will certainly benefit from the 64-bit A7.

(Worth reading: The 64-bit question: What does Apple's iPad 5 mean for tablets in the enterprise?)

This is just the tip of the iceberg with what the A7 can do for software on the iPad.  

I have already spoken with a number of systems integrators working on apps for doctors and healthcare who are creating apps for the iPad and the A7 that they could have only otherwise created for a desktop or notebook computer. The significance of bringing that kind of computing power to a mobile and handheld device like the iPad that--unlike a notebook--can be used standing and moving around, is huge.

Medical apps, perhaps even science and research applications and more are all fascinating areas to see tablet and touch-based computing applications be developed. 

Many doctors, researchers, and scientists had to bring computers on rolling desks around with them as they moved to do their research. Now they can have the power of those computers in their hand and no longer be chained to a rolling computer.

(More about tablets in healthcare at TabTimes.com/health)

Touch computing has been one of the most important developments to transpire over the past few years. Tablets broke new ground when it came to bringing people who wouldn't go near a personal computer and gave them the power of a computer in a form factor they were not threatened by. 

Building upon that base, with the A7 inside, the new iPads are breaking new ground when it comes to tablet computing.

The iPad Air rollout was a big deal, but I expect even more significant announcements will come in the year ahead as amazing new apps are created to to tap its power.

(For iPad news, trends, apps and reviews, sign up for the free TabTimes for iPad newsletter)

Ben Bajarin is Director of the Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies, a strategy consulting firm in Silicon Valley.
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