Apple Blundered A Little With The New iPad

Apr.19.12 | About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

OK, I know it's not allowed to say Apple (AAPL) does anything wrong. It's a sin even, and I'm going to burn for all eternity for pointing out Apple's smallish, rather irrelevant, unworthy of print, failure. But here it goes.

Apple blundered a little with the new iPad. It blundered, in objective, technical, ways. And I'm not speaking about it being heavier and somewhat thicker. Or about it draining the much larger battery a bit quicker due to LTE and the retina display. No, it's more fundamental, and it not only hits the buyers of the new iPad, it will also create a problem for the customers who have the original iPad or the iPad 2.

So what did Apple do wrong?

Apple made 2 mistakes.

The first is the increase in computing power. The A5X SoC on the new iPad is a dual-core CPU with a quad-core GPU. The CPU part is the same as the A5 on the iPad 2 with no increase in computing power; the GPU should mean a doubling of the capacity to process graphics. And therein lays the problem. The retina display, at 2048 x 1536 pixels, means pushing four times the pixels as the iPad 2's resolution (1024 x 768). And when you marry twice the GPU power with 4 times the pixels, the end result is somewhat obvious. On games that were previously pushing the envelope, the new iPad is simply much slower than the iPad 2. This is something that customers are already experiencing with games that were hastily converted or were made for the iPad 2. It's something unexpected for a new generation of hardware (for it to be slower than the previous), and for once, Apple dropped the ball.

But it gets worse. There's a second mistake. Due to the way the distribution system is designed, the iPad apps consist of a single package no matter if they are for the original iPad, the iPad 2 or the new iPad. So this package has to include not only the "low resolution" images for the previous iPads, but also the high resolution assets for the new iPad. Now, those high resolution textures and images take a whole lot more space than previously, up to 4 times as much, and are in addition to the low resolution assets.

This means that the apps are much, much larger downloads and take a lot more space in the device. And worse still, if the customers with the old iPads decide to update their apps, they too get those useless high resolution assets, and quite probably see their iPads lose all their free space! So, in this new iPad the storage capacities don't mean the same as before, and with this technical flaw even the old iPads will see reduced storage capacity in practice. This is something with the potential to irritate both the new customers, as well as the old ones.

Conclusion

There's little doubt that both these flaws could have been avoided with better planning and attention to detail. These flaws might produce some customer backlash and, ever slightly, dilute Apple's invincible image. These flaws also raise the question of whether such a product would have seen the light of day if Steve Jobs was there to stop and question it.

These flaws won't have immediate impact on Apple stock except if the new iPad somehow fails to be the success that it's expected to be. But they might constitute a tiny red flag, a sign that there are some things changing on the product side, over at Apple.

There, now I'll have to go confess myself for the sin of having exposed this.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.