updated 07:20 pm EST, Fri January 27, 2012
iPad has firm footprint two years on
Friday signaled the second anniversary of the iPad's introduction and what has since been interpreted as the start of a shift in the entire computing space. Apple's tablet was unveiled this day in 2010 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco by its late co-creator, Steve Jobs. It would only go on sale April 2, but it proved to be polarizing from its unveiling, even for Apple loyalists.
Some had expected Apple to develop a touchscreen-only Mac to match the screen size and were disappointed at what they saw as limited functionality. Many of those already set against Apple were harsher and characteristically dismissive, arguing that it was just an upsized iPod touch and that the lack of a desktop-level OS would doom it.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who has developed a reputation for underestimating Apple in public statements, dismissed the iPad's chances. The tablet went on to outsell every Windows tablet PC ever made in nine months and is now considered a serious drain on Microsoft's income, leading to multiple Windows revenue drops. Windows 8's primary, touch-native interface was designed explicitly as an answer to the iPad, and its new support for ARM was meant to help reach the lower prices and long battery life that were impractical with Microsoft's previously Intel-only approach.
Numerous PC builders have since not only had to take the iPad seriously but, in some cases, rethink their philosophies to stay afloat. Acer has been the core example. For most of 2010, executives insisted that the iPad would die at any moment and that people would inevitably return to cheap Windows PCs. Its repeated attempts to ignore market realities proved costly; Acer not only lost much of its market share from people picking the iPad over its low-end PCs but had to reorganize around mobile and treat its tablets as its entry-level option.
Dell, HP, and other Windows PC builders have either dropped or scaled back their netbook plans. HP nearly gave up its PC division out of fears that the iPad was making the traditional market unsustainable.
Almost 55.3 million iPads have shipped in the platform's recorded history and have seen momentum build to where tablets outsell PCs in the US. Unlike in smartphones, Google hasn't had success in trying to overtake Apple in tablets. Ambitions of repeating the Motorola Droid's success with the Xoom failed rapidly, and virtually no Android tablet designer had more than modest success until the loss-leading Amazon Kindle Fire arrived this fall. It is devices that cost $250 or less, like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, that have most successfully challenged Apple's still-dominant lead, but mostly by operating in a more limited category.
The future for the iPad may see it push the limits of modern technology with a widely rumored 2048x1536 display and 4G LTE for a March release. Apple has already made the iPad a major influencer in digital reading, and now plans for it to play a key role in rethinking textbooks.