Apple’s recent release of the third generation of iPads (known simply as the iPad, but referred to here as the iPad 3 for clarity) has markedly improved the popular tablet in some ways, but at the same time failed to impress many people. More of an incremental update than a significant improvement, it is entirely possible to view this as a rushed release in an effort to gain further traction against the impending competition from Windows 8.
The biggest change that has been included in the iPad 3 is the inclusion of a Retina Display like that used on the most recent iPhone. This allows it to display content at such high resolutions that it is nearly impossible to see pixilation. While a wonderful inclusion, the fact that the whole release hinges on it may be informative.
Obviously the move by Microsoft to join the Tablet PC market is going to be important to Apple. The fact is that as a tablet interface Metro offers a truly impressive experience at least on par with that of iOS. This would not necessarily be enough to trouble Apple on its own, but the combination of Microsoft’s ability to bring large numbers of high quality developers on board in a hurry, some measure of backwards compatibility with existing windows application, and a tablet market increasingly fond of low priced iPad alternatives running less sophisticated operating systems could be a deadly combination.
With this update to the iPad, if we take it as reflective of concern over the Windows 8 threat, Apple has chosen an interesting stance. Obviously Microsoft will not be making their own hardware as Apple does. They will be relying on hardware developers to pick up that end of things. By setting the bar somewhat higher on the hardware, real head to head competition becomes more difficult.
On average, PCs have been reliably cheaper than their Mac counterparts. A variety of factors, including but not limited to Apple’s closed circle of production and the resultant reliability and consistent experience, keep them competitive despite this. With the iPad being an already affordable device, especially by Apple hardware standards, they don’t have quite such a large obstacle to overcome. On the other hand, the price comparison is that much more obvious. A Windows 8 tablet priced $100 less than the iPad would be 20% less expensive.
It is highly unlikely that the whole Windows 8 vs iOS comparison will be decided by the pricing of available hardware, especially as manufacturers begin to build with the new OS in mind, but the longer Microsoft takes to build momentum in the tablet market the harder it will be for anybody to take them seriously as an option. If held off for long enough to give Windows 8 a reputation as a flop, even actual superior performance wouldn’t necessarily be enough to revive tablet prospects. If nothing else, it is a very interesting approach and may indicate a high level of competitiveness about to enter the field.