This Week in Tablets: iPad 3 clarification, Windows 8, and a great move by Condé Nast

March 3, 2012

The iPad 3 is coming—but what exactly is the iPad 3?

The iPad 3 is all but official now. Apple sent out formal invitations to select members of the industry and press earlier this week. But the big question remains: What exactly is being announced?

Rumors are swirling around, and on cue, iPad 2 owners are beginning to trade in their tablets in anticipation of shiny newness.

As the sourcing of these rumors becomes more reliable, it feels like we’re starting to gain clarity on the iPad 3’s feature set. A faster processor with more CPU threads and 4G access feel like no-brainers at this point.

But we are talking about Apple here. Even the most obvious-sounding rumors are still suspect. Remember the iPhone 5…I mean iPhone 4s?

Whatever the case, numerous sources have indicated that the iPad 3 will have a super high-resolution 2048 x 1536 retina display. At literally double the resolution of the iPad 2 on the same size screen, this would qualify as a true “retina” display—a screen that has a high enough pixel density (pixels per inch) that the naked eye cannot perceive individual pixels at all.

At the same time rumors have continued to swirl that there may be a 7-inch iPad announcement coming also. Is this the iPad 3? Or the iPad HD? Both? Neither?

Given the slightly lackluster critical response around the iPhone 4s announcement, and the reality that Amazon’s Kindle Fire is cutting a swath through the smaller form-factor tablet category, I wouldn’t put it past Apple to announce both.

In fact, who’s to say that the March 7 announcement has to be entirely focused on iPad 3? Rumors out of the LA Times indicate that Apple might also use the event to announce a new version of Apple TV.

It makes you (or me) wonder—are we about to see some kind of surprising second-screen tie-in announcement this week?

It’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re all in for some kind of surprise.

Is iOS 6.0 coming also?

Another big question is what the OS side of the iPad 3 equation will be. Siri is expected and will probably be in the release, but will it come in the form of a major or minor OS update?

This answer appears to be coming into focus, and it looks like a dot-zero OS release. Late on Friday, Ars Technica published a story saying that its own web site logs revealed that a small number of higher-than-normal resolution devices in Cupertino were browsing arstechnica.com. A number of these devices appeared to indicate an entirely new iOS operating system labeled version 6.0.

One final thought here: The notion of a 2048 x 1536 10-inch display will create some interesting complications and a potential upheaval for developers. Just like 800 x 600 graphics look terrible on a 1024 x 768 display, the current state of the art could become instantly obsolete on the iPad 3’s display.

On the flipside, such a high-resolution display will have a dramatic impact upon business, and healthcare in particular. As a general rule, higher resolutions equal increased clarity and insight around X-ray imagery, ultrasound, and more.

Microsoft Windows 8

I’m betting that internally and from a tablet perspective, Microsoft’s employees have mixed feelings about the current two week window.

The buzz around the Windows 8 release will to some extent be swallowed whole by iPad 3 rumors and Apple’s official announcement this coming week. This is convenient for Ballmer and crew; it essentially allows Microsoft to duck a whole bunch of unanswered questions about the ARM-based tablet version of Windows.

The truth about Windows 8 is that, right now from a consumer perspective, it’s still a desktop OS. That will change in time. But most critics, analysts, and pundits have yet to hear or see much regarding the very first ARM-compatible version of Windows, aside from the proclamations that Office apps will be present, and that most marketplace apps will be cross-compatible.

But if Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 release is any indicator, it’s not likely that we’ll see much more of Windows in tablet form until the official release. Microsoft said as much at the end of its Mobile World Congress 2012 announcement. The next time we see a new version of Windows 8, it will be RTM.

TabTimes is holding out hope that Microsoft will reveal a little more about enterprise and corporate functions of Windows 8 tablets at CeBIT in Germany later in March, but numerous questions remain.

Will Office on ARM tablets cost consumers extra dollars? How much will Windows 8 cost tablet manufacturers? Will ARM tablets have the same networking functions and management that desktop Windows PCs do?

This week’s winners

Golf Digest Magazine: Conde Nast’s golfing magazine scored a huge win this week when it released an exclusive excerpt of Hank Haney’s new book about Tiger Woods, “The Big Miss”, on its iPad app (iTunes, $4.99). A great move that magazine publishers can learn from. We’ll be curious to hear how well it worked.

Adobe: For many publishers, Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite is a godsend; for resource-strapped publishers of all sizes, the ability to quickly and easily convert digital and print content into a tablet-friendly format cannot be under-rated.

The news that internal statistics revealed that 16 million digital publications powered by the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite were downloaded over the last twelve months is pretty spectacular, for both publishers and for Adobe, which nets a tidy profit on each app-publication.

A friend of mine who works at a San Francisco-based magazine/digital publisher said it best: “If you’re not at least thinking about going with Adobe after hearing that, you’re crazy.”

This week’s loser

RIM: Did you hear anything about last week’s PlayBook 2.0 release this week? Neither did I.

On the horizon

For the next two weeks, it’s all about the iPad 3, and/or whatever else Apple announces on Wednesday, March 7. Until then, nothing else matters on the tablet frontier.

And, as a healthy reminder that software counts as much as hardware in the tablet space, on Friday evening, Apple sent out word that its App Store had received its 25 billionth download. That’s incredible, even if the vast majority are iPhone apps.

Also amazing: It was just two years ago that Apple released the original iPad, literally kicking off this whole tablet phenomenon. 

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