I’m not going with a cryptic title for this piece. There’s enough confusion out there in the world of technology and marketing that being cryptic on a “Should I buy” post just isn’t fair. Before you trust my word I need to make an open disclosure.

I am invested LONG in Apple. I have purchased stock in Apple at $405 in 12/11; $90 in 12/08; and $12 in the mid 90s. My career is also focused on being a third party software engineer on Apple’s product platforms. I have been doing so professionally since the mid 1990s. Currently I write iOS apps and Mac apps full time for an amazing company. I have an Apple ][+ on my office desk. It is to replace the Apple ][ (not a plus) that I received in 1979 that was lost in a move. Finally, I am the owner of an iPad (G1, WiFi model, 32G)

So many reviewers out there will tell you whether or not you should buy the new iPad based entirely on its new feature set. Anyone who talks about that and doesn’t comment on the end users’ needs really isn’t giving you any worthwhile buying information.

To help supply better information for purchasing decisions, I’m going to first discuss what separates the iPad from the Desktop PC and smartphone to make it a worthwhile product to own in general. Second, I’m going to break potential buyers up into four ownership groups and address what most other reviewers are saying. (Side note: Developers, you’ve already pre-ordered yours, right? Because a surprising number of your customers certainly have.) Next, I’ll focus in on a few specific classifications of people (Students, Artists, Business, etc.) to outline potential use/need concerning a purchase. After, I’ll explain and justify my own reasons for pre-ordering a new iPad as soon as the Apple Store let me. Finally, I’ll comment on Apple’s release schedule and the nature of the rumour mill vs. buying/waiting for devices.

With the iPad (G1) I came to the realisation that Apple had found a way to split computing into a new sub-category of activity: consumptive computing. The average user doesn’t make complicated movies, software, or Office documents. They often run in-house applications (usually back-ended into a database) and modify a string of templates. Other than that they do a lot of email, research, and on PCs play solitaire and minesweeper. (Yes, I realise that is out of date). Amusingly, until recently in most offices the individual contributors who did the creative work (Coding, Complex document layout, graphics) often had to fight for better equipment while the management and “CxO”s got the really good stuff.

Consumptive computing is all the stuff you can do without a lot of creation (e.g.: web surfing, email, music, picture organisation, Office document review, games… etc.) You really don’t need the number crunching power to display. (Granted, playing games are different…, kind of; but not in comparison to rendering games), As a result, I’ve often said that the iPad has turned my computer back into a Creative Computing device. I write code on it. I manage databases. I create complex spreadsheets. Occasionally, I caption videos for my family. Happily, I also consider what computer activities I could write an app for to get those activities off the computer and onto my iPad. It would seem that business agrees. Apple recently stated that 92% of the Fortune 500 companies were testing or distributing iPads to their employees.

In general, I believe the iPad is an ESSENTIAL computing tool that everyone should have though it DOES NOT YET replace the desktop/portable computer for everyone. I also do not think at this stage that everyone needs a desktop/portable computer.

There are four types of people out there in the pre “New” iPad world: People that do not own a tablet computing device; people that own a non-Apple Computing device, people that own the 1st generation iPad, and of course people that own the 2nd generation iPad. Noting that I believe everyone should have an iPad; I’m going to spend little time on the group of non-owners in this section, as the reasons are far too broad to lump these people together. Suffice it to say that between eBay, refurbished units, the maintenance of the iPad2, and the new models there are loads of feature and price points available to either jump in or wade in a toe at a time.

As mentioned at the top, I do prefer Apple products. My experience with Android has been akin to my experiences with Windows. I so want to like it, but then the limitations trip me up. And while there are occasional things they have that the corresponding Apple product doesn’t. The problems, complexity, issues, and over all lack of dependability just sort of leave me looking to see if I can solve the missing issue on my Apple device.

There have been over 100 tablets in the past year. Most of these stalled out of the gate. Apple has a huge advantage in the space. Now… they do currently come in one and only one size. And there is a minimum price point higher than units from the competition. It is true that you can get a Kindle for less money to read books on a paper like screen. There is also the Kindle Fire, which I think Amazon just spun off to a new division as it was manufacturing and selling those at a financial loss to the company. Android did release “No really, ‘The Ice Cream Sandwich OS’ will do everything that we promised the last OS didn’t do.” And of course there is the “Google is definitely the lesser of two evils than Apple” camp. To the latter I can only say, “No Corporation is without evil. You just pick which evil you can personally relegate in your soul.” At my office I’ve had at least 3 co-workers switch to iPads and regret ever having been on any other smart platform. So, all I can say to the owners of the competition is: “Try it. You may like it.”

To repeat my earlier disclosure: I am an iPad (G1) owner. I did not buy the iPad on day one. I was hesitant. I too bought into the “It’s a big iPhone” head scratching. The reality distortion field of Steve said, “You have to touch it to realise it is magic.” And after handling one in an Apple Store I knew I wanted one. At the time I was between jobs so it wasn’t in the budget. Even when I got a new job, I thought it’d be best to wait until after the move to the new city. My overly tech-endowed mother-in-law (who comes to me for a good bit of tech support) however was utterly surprised that I didn’t have one and suggested I get one to help with the move and to celebrate having a new full-time job. (Best suggestion, ever)

The new iPad is leaps and bounds beyond the first model. When the G2 came out there just wasn’t enough flavour to convince me to drop and buy. A camera was a nice touch, but I had one on my iPhone and computer. The speed was great if I needed a camera. About the only think I wish I’d gotten the G2 for was the weight difference. The G3 however, takes all the G2 additions and adds in enough that now it’s worth moving up. The camera is now far more robust than the one in the iPhone. The dictation capability can take the place of typing. The iOS platform as a whole has grown robustly enough to purchase a model that will take advantage of a new generation of apps. In general (but not necessarily specifically for all) a move from an iPad (G1) to an iPad (G3) seems to make good sense.

The G2 iPad is really a strong machine. I’d actually say that the G2 is the first full-feature iPad with the G1 sort of being the iPad early adopter’s release. By the time the G2 released the App Store was beginning to show a good number of apps that specifically targeted it. The camera was pretty good. Most of the other technology was sufficient to not leave people clambering for more. As a G2 owner, how should you look at the new iPad?

The big feature hits from the G3 iPad is far better graphics, dictation, 4G, and BTLE. In the case of the latter two I view these technologies at this time in the same way I did with Apple dropping a floppy drive in deference to the USB port. 4G and BTLE are most assuredly future technologies that will be in everything and available everywhere. Currently they are neither. If you’re getting the device for that reason, I hope that you have access to the technologies dependably (engineer, researcher, big city denizen) because you’re likely to be disappointed otherwise with the lack of use for these things.

Okay, then there is the graphics and the dictation. I really was hoping to play with Siri on the new iPad. I have watched dictation technology for many years. I’ve always been suitably unimpressed. For me, dictation would be better integrated like Siri as a utility. “Make an appointment for foo.” I have seen the video of the keynote presentation. We’ll have to see if the dictation is really up to speed or on the other hand we can look forwards to a new web site similar to “Damn You, Autocorrect” and “Why Siri Why.”

I’ve intentionally avoided the question of the graphics because you can’t make a fair decision about the iPad 3 from an iPad 2 point of view based solely on the fact that the G3 does in fact have “über” graphic mojo.

Unwritten disclosure: My spouse is a full-time artist. I purchased her an iPad 2 for the holidays this past Q4. My wife is an artist. She also whimpered at me quite pitifully when I explained the new graphics on the iPad G3.

Unless graphic quality is your bread and butter for work or personal life, I think iPad 2 owners can and should hold off of the new iPad. It’s tempting, but in general it’s going to be 2-4 months for the first app updates to really hit the streets that make the app look better for the device. It will likely be 6-9 months before a new generation of apps comes out that really make the new device scream.

So what does it mean to have graphic quality be your bread and butter? Picture quality and rendering speed become more essential. So this is both a gamer’s platform as well as an artist’s platform. In both cases however, you’re looking at a quality level that one really only needs if they intend to devote that level of work to the iPad. It’s certain that this quality (or better) will become commonplace eventually, but again at this stage you’re paying for bleeding edge, and the bulk of apps will not cater to this for 6 months or so. In general, if you want to start moving your personal work and gaming to the higher resolution and quality or if you’re looking to shoot HD video with an iPad… that’s where your consideration should go.

There is one last thing I haven’t mentioned that the iPad (G3) brings with it that hasn’t received a lot of press. There is the newer version of the Apple Care protection plan. A note on this… It may seem like a surcharge, but I personally ALWAYS figure in the cost of Apple Care with any hardware that I buy. If a pixel goes south 6 months in, I want my unit replaced. I STRONGLY recommend that any purchase of Apple hardware include Apple Care support.

The new Apple Care for the iPad (G3) includes a feature added for the iPhone 4S. The new Apple Care “…adds coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage due to handling of your iPad, each subject to a $49 service fee.” Apple calls this “Accidental Damage from Handling” or “ADH”. The legal documents continue: “ADH coverage only applies to an operational or mechanical failure caused by an accident from handling that is the result of an unexpected and unintentional external event (e.g., drops and liquid contact) that arises from your normal daily usage of the Covered iPad as intended for such Covered iPad.”

There are some standard exceptions: Scratches and dents that don’t effect operation. Damages caused from unauthorised use (opening the unit, modifying the unit), units outside the company of purchase, units damaged before the Apple Care service was bought. (That’s right, no coverage for pre-existing conditions)

The days of dropping your unit in water and being out $$$ are over. And you get 3 units over the lifetime of the Support. You get the original and two replacements with ~$50 fees for each replacement.

As mentioned, I spent three hours trying to force my way into the Apple Store after the Keynote announcement to pre-order the iPad, which I’d already discussed with the family. Before this purchase I own a first generation iPad with 32G in the Wi-Fi only model. I have an iPhone 4 with 32G. I also have a 2 yr. old MBP 17″. My wife received the iPhone 4S to replace her iPhone 3GS and got an iPad2 for a holiday gift. She has a 15″ MBP from last year that was a birthday present from her mother. This has been the first time that she has had all better/newer equipment than me because typically I was purchasing new and handing down.

Personally, I did not opt for the iPad 2 or the iPhone 4S because I felt the feature increment was not sufficient that the Return on Investment made up for the cost of the original devices. Granted over a short time I did come to covet her iOS units. Siri is quite nifty and the camera on the iPad is quite impressive. But they never seemed to really motivate me to update.

The iPad 3 however was an increment on the increment of the iPad 2. My iPad is also beginning to show some definite wear and ‘love marks.’ Most of the corners are dented from drops (though there are NO scratches on the glass). The volume button sticks sometimes. I also noticed that development wise, I really wanted to use the office iPad 2 (test equipment) to see apps running at the higher quality. (Don’t get me started on my iPhone 4; that’s another post for another time)

For the first time I will be buying the Net-enabled iPad. I will also be buying the 64GB version. Currently, I have found myself using the tether mode from my phone for my iPad Wi-Fi while travelling. I also find that my iPhone is becoming more and more an iPod Touch with Phone. There are a couple of quick apps I like on my phone, but most of the heavy App work I’ve moved to the iPad. I’d rather not have to be maintaining the iPhone charge to assure net for the iPad. Thanks to iMessage, my SMS usage has dropped through the floor. Personally, I’d love to run down my phone contract to what I actually use.

So from a feature-over-feature point of view, the G1 to G3 update makes sense. From a “Where do I want my net” point of view, the Wi-Fi to Net iPad version makes sense. As a developer who needs to cater to fast adopters it makes sense to have the new model closer to me. And this is how I came to the conclusion that this update was not merely a good idea but for me personally, necessary.

This leads into the Apple update schedule. Earlier this year I made some predictions about the Apple product schedule. It would seem that Apple is driving towards yearly feature updates of all its product lines in both software and hardware. (At least the ones with high relevance in the ‘Post-PC’ world.) While those updates may not be as flashy as the ones that occurred during the time that updates took 2-3 years, they don’t lack for advancement. In the hardware world, it also seems like Apple is getting into a cycle where there is a current model and the previous model. Keeping the older unit alive while the new version takes over. This begins to remove the feel of “Obsolescence before you get it home.” Also by having smaller upgrades Apple doesn’t force you to update whenever there is a new version.

So, should you plunk down cash and buy ‘the new iPad?’ I’m not going to tell you one way or another. Personally, I think if you’re reading this through a reader, or a web page, or the like… You should own _an_ iPad. If you have an iPad 1 and like the technology then updating is a good idea. If you’re an iPad 2 owner, I think you need to consider whether to upgrade very carefully. I think your iPad 2 is going to be sufficient until the next revision 6 – 12 months down the line. If you’re a Kindle, Samsung, Windows tablet owner; I think now is the time to really put your prejudices under an objective reality check and take ‘the new iPad’ for a test spin.

Inevitably, decide for yourself; but understand not merely the feature set, but how it applies to your own needs and uses.

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