The Day We All Got Punked by Apple

3 02 2011

Apple iProduct lovers across the twitterverse and blogosphere who have been waiting for some news of the release date, or indeed the mere existence of, the mythical, magical iPad 2 had a moment of hyperventilation yesterday afternoon and it had to do with some hearsay at the launch of Apple’s new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. The Daily itself really didn’t strike me as all that big a deal. Oooh, another news agency owned by Rupert Murdoch. Wow. What is that now? 50? I also get the sense that I can find something much more insightful for my money too – it rated for ages 9+. The big deal about it is that it’s exclusively for the iPad (for now) and it adds subscription billing to the app model which other publications will probably pick up on, but really, it wasn’t the biggest technology launch of the day. Yes, there was something else much more interesting to ooh an ahh at. Google debuted its Honeycomb app market for tablet computers running the Android OS. It’s hoping Honeycomb will be as big a hit as its Android app market for smartphones. It’s a bigger, shinier, all around sexier version of an already wildly successful product. It has worlds of potential. It may even turn out to be what the tablet computer market is missing – any real, serious competition for the iPad, but it has one big problem in the short-term. They have yet to announce a release date for Honeycomb and if it happens anywhere close to the release date of the iPad 2, nobody will notice or care for a while. That will have a bearing on Android-powered tablet sales because most techno-geeks – or at least the well-funded ones – are instinctively drawn to the newest thing. Google got a tiny taste of what that kind of overshadowing might be like yesterday. Apparently, somebody who knows somebody who knows how to contact Reuters saw an iPad 2 off on the sidelines at the launch of The Daily… and the net was all over it. Honeycomb what? Isn’t that a cereal?

At first blush, this sounded absolutely excellent. A sneak peek at what I’ve begun calling The Precious snuck into the launch of something far less cool simultaneously proving to the world that the iPad 2 is in fact on the way and getting free press for at least a few days from blogs, twitter, and a news cycle mention from traditional media as well. What a stroke of genius! I twittered news of the sighting just like many others. After a few seconds of thought, though, it didn’t add up. There’s one big flaw in this scenario as far as I see it – one thing that is impossible to ignore. In this age where every cell phone, no matter how cheap and basic, has a camera in it and in a room full of professional journalists no one got a picture of the thing that so many are waiting for. That makes no sense. One of them might have missed it – half a dozen at most – but a whole room full of reporters representing all sorts of media outlets from tech blogs to major news channels and none of them sees what is almost surely going to be one of the next big things on the market and grabs their camera or smartphone quicker than a fat kid grabs a Ring Ding? No way! This article from techcrunch.com (cool site!) has a few other points but it echos my main one as well. I think we got punked. Sorry Reuters, I’ll believe it when I see the pictures.

Apple is still getting some free press and the iPad 2 is still shrouded in mystery. Also yesterday, while Google was showing off its cool, new tablet OS, the post holiday return numbers for the Android-running Samsung Galaxy Tab, an android powered tablet and the iPad’s closest competition, were released and the news isn’t good. According to this article in Beatweek, the return rate for the Galaxy Tab was 13%. Thirteen out of every 100 are returned for a refund. That’s a big deal because not everyone who isn’t completely happy with a device returns it. Sometimes people miss the return deadline, or otherwise end up keeping the thing and waiting until something better comes along to upgrade So there are theoretically more unsatisfied customers out there who just weren’t unsatisfied enough or able to return their Galaxy Tabs. By the way, the return rate on the iPad – 2%. On the bright side for non-iPad tablets, many tech blogs including Techcrunch.com were really impressed with the Honeycomb OS and think it might challenge the iPad (they got to test it for about 20 minutes on a Motorola Xoom). Even with all the improvements to the tablet version of Android, we still have no concrete knowledge of what the iPad 2’s specs are yet, so it really is anyone’s guess. Still, I think that Apple had a bit of fun with all of us and maybe ruffled Google’s feather’s in the process. Well played, Apple, well played.

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