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Apple's Jobs to rivals: You're nerds, we're not

The most important part of the iPad 2 launch event wasn't the product, or the fact that Steve Jobs was there. It was Apple's restatement of its belief that it is in a different business from everyone else.

What was most significant about today's iPad 2 launch?

Was it that Apple put the spec into spectacular? Was it that Steve Jobs appeared onstage, dressed as always, in order to emphasize and sell the importance of the launch?

Or was the most significant element of all not about the thinness of the iPad 2, but about Apple's view about the essential denseness of its competition?

Jobs put it in these words: "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. And nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. And a lot of folks in this tablet market are rushing in and looking at this as the next PC."

For those involved in the creation, production, and development of tech products, it's so easy to let the mind fall into the chasms that please the most: the numbers, the power, the speed, the essential gadgetry of the machine.

James Martin/CNET

Apple, though, believes, and with some justification, that it simply isn't in the gadget business. It sees its competitors precisely as the nerds, the geeks, but not the romantics. It sees them as more prepared to play with their gadgets for the gadgets' sake, rather than to enhance their experience of life somewhere out there. These are not the guys who will get the girl.

At the same time, it sees its own business as bringing people closer to a better life experience, whatever that might mean for them. The Garage Band demonstration, for example, brought many nearer to the idea that they can create music, even if they can't read a note.

The contrast couldn't be clearer between Jobs' presentation of the iPad 2 and the recent Verizon ad for the Motorola Xoom. While the former emphasized lightness, music, and movies, the latter talked gyroscopes.

At yesterday's TED conference, The New York Times' David Brooks offered his views about how even those who create social policy forget that what defines humans simply isn't terribly rational.

He said: "We have inherited a view of human nature based on the idea that reason is separate from emotions...that society progresses to the extent that reason is separate from passion."

So while many will sit and dissect whether an iPad that is 15 percent less heavy is a vast selling point, Apple will be far more concerned with whether what it showed inspired people to feel something more.

Some enjoy calling Apple's approach "marketing," as if it is a curious and false manipulation of innocent, dumb, technologically unenlightened customers.

But what the company proves again and again is that "marketing" means taking technological talent and insisting that it create things that inspire an irrational soul. The customer has to feel something more than he or she currently does.

That was Steve Jobs' most significant message today. And one wonders how the human beings who are his competitors believe (in their heart and soul) they can either prove him wrong or beat him.