With the new iPad, Apple yawns

If you're disappointed with what the new iPad has to offer, Apple won't mind. Its challenge isn't this product, it's the next one. (Hint: It's two letters long.)

Donald Bell/CNET

To those for whom gadgets are oxygen, the launch of the new iPad must have been exciting. But to those for whom oxygen is oxygen, all they learned was that there was a new iPad with a name that matches the obvious with the confusing.

That Apple succeeded in adding so little to its iPad demonstrates most strongly its competition's Keystone Cops-ish disarray.

The company didn't--perhaps couldn't--transfer Siri to the iPad. And yet no one seemed concerned.

Those who adore numbers will have been moved by the scale in which what was once an underdog brand has followed in Nike's sneakersteps--and suddenly found competitors' throats beneath.

One hundred seventy-two million post-PC devices. 15.4 million iPads last quarter alone. In that same quarter, 110 million people wafted down the aisles of their retail stores. Apple sold more iPads last quarter than HP shipped PCs.

Somewhere, those who run the U.S. car industry wished they'd been a little more nerdy.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

When it came to presenting the new iPad, you sensed that, lovely though the new screen might be, the folks on the stage were thinking about their next gig, not this one. This was Detroit two nights before the Garden. This was the Rams a week before the Patriots.

Apple knows that no rival tablet has captured people's imaginations. (Certainly no profitable tablet.) There was a very healthy argument that the company didn't need to launch a new iPad at all.

But the fans needed something. So they got a live album.

At an emotional level, Apple now largely owns the handheld world. The iPhone, the iPad and the MacBook Air are each the most desirable machines for those who like to travel light (and sexy) and be seen traveling light (and sexy).

The next step has to be a takeover of the one piece of electronic furniture that Apple has never emitted from its little basement workshop: television.

TV still has a scale and an impact that the little devices don't quite match. A usurping of the TV system--admittedly slightly more difficult than the philosophical fumblerooski performed on the music industry--is the horizon that Apple covets most.

For real people, televisions have been the same for a while. They still fiddle with stained remotes. They still bemoan the fact that TVs are cumbersome and that cable companies make them buy channels they never watch--worse, channels they couldn't even name.

A frustrated human being is Apple's favorite kind.

Apple is the world's strongest brand for good reasons. It understands people's emotional systems. It knows how to dissolve frustrations, bringing human being closer to an experience they never thought possible. Its products don't need much advertising because they themselves are the best advertising there is.

And people actually get excited about these things.

No other brand can, in the confines of its own boardrooms and laboratories, believe that it currently matches that emotional grip. Samsung has tried--and how--but somehow the world has yet to be moved by Samsung's executives making speeches.

If, even this year, Apple can begin to bring that sense of excitement to TV, then everyone will look back on today and think that it was an even bigger yawn than it seemed.

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