On Feeds and Speeds

And a lot of folks in this tablet market are rushing in and they’re looking at this as the next PC. The hardware and the software are done by different companies. And they’re talking about speeds and feeds just like they did with PCs

Steve Jobs, iPad 2 launch event March 2011.

I’m not above doing a feeds and speeds comparison.

All the products above have dual core processors, 512 MB of memory. The iPad processor is a bit slower. The iPad also has a slightly smaller resolution screen than a MacBook from mid 2006. However, unlike the others, the iPad has cellular broadband connectivity, loads more sensors, and a battery that will last at least 5 times longer.

It’s also a lot cheaper and a lot smaller.

Although five years old, nobody would question that the MacBook or iMacs shown above are still computers. They still run the latest versions of OS X and are probably still in widespread use.

The new iPad is still not considered a computer by the majority of market analysts. One wonders how long this will go on. The specs of the iPad are just going to keep getting better…

  • desreveR

    The iPad is a classic case of a new-market disruption that is technically inferior to existing products (computers) but exceeds them in a few important use cases (interaction experience, apps). Over time, the iPad will continue to evolve until it starts competing with computers in other dimensions as well, thereby attracting more and more traditional computer users and growing the iPad ecosystem.

    One exciting milestone I look forward to is the day programming tools (Xcode) become feasible on the iPad and make the iPad "self-sustaining". The potential for a new generation of coding via a touch screen just seems like an incredibly exciting new opportunity for developers and consumers alike.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      Xcode on iPad is unnecessary, and iPad is not any less without it. iPad and the Mac are both OS X. It is OS X that is "self-sustaining."

      If you imagine there was no Mac, then there might be a special developer's iPad with a keyboard, additional processing power and memory, support for much larger screens, access to the Unix layer, Xcode and its suite of tools, and a suite of tools built on top of Xcode by 3rd parties, such as Unity. Plus a suite of pro graphics and 3D and audio video tools. Well, that is the Mac. And you'd want a way to hook on a consumer iPad to see your developing application in context, so you'd still have 2 machines.

      In other words, if the Mac didn't already exist, Apple would have to invent it.

      Web development is not done in the browser, either. You put a text editor and graphics and other tools on one screen, including Unix access again, and a browser on the other to see your work in context. Or, these days, an iPad or other mobile device replaces the browser.

      It is actually quite typical to develop on one device and view on another. For example, editing video on a Mac, viewing on a TV. Making DVD on a Mac, viewing on a DVD player. Making music in Logic Pro on a Mac, for listening on an iPod. The iPad is the part of OS X that is universal, so plugging in a second device with developer tools and huge processors for quick compile jobs is totally practical during that minority of time when iPad programming is being done.

    • poke

      I think we'll see development on iOS eventually. Editing text is actually a terrible way to program. There was a lot of work on visual programming and structure editing a couple of decades ago, the biggest problem was that the mouse/keyboard UI isn't very good at that sort of thing. I think a system designed around multitouch would be quite usable. Possibly even more productive than current environments. Of course, programmers are notoriously conservative, so I think it'd need a special use-case scenario to really take off.

    • Ralf

      I think Xcode on ipad is just not going to happen. This, for me, is like video editing on traditional PCs. You watch video on e.g. an 13″ portable but you really do not want to do professional editing on such a machine. It’s not because of computational power but because of screen size. I code on an 15″ MacBook pro and do feel the need for a bigger screen constantly.

  • The GPU performance increase means two things to me: 1) the iPad 1 launched featuring iWork, meaning Apple intended one of the primary selling points (but not the only selling point) for it is productivity with some gaming on the side; 2) the iPad 2 is now more a "fun" device, a gaming platform, and productivity is no longer the _primary_ selling point.

    • that's a good point. but what did ipad 2 launch with? garageband and imovie. it's creative productivity. this, after all, is what apple and the mac were really born for — sophisticated electronic tools suited to the artist/auteur, rather than the number cruncher/report writer.

      apple does lots of software well — i prefer iwork to office — but i always get the sense they don't have the great passion for it that they do for something like garageband. you can see just by looking at these apps how much fun they had making them, how much they care about the details. gaming has been a huge success on the ios platform, but i don't think apple has the same passion for that either. i think it's really about enabling people to create. making it easy and fun to create art, really. and i don't think there's anything more in apple's wheelhouse than that.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      I don't think that is about what Apple intended you to do, it's just that Keynote and Pages have much lower system requirements than iMovie and GarageBand, and require fewer people to port them, because the original iPad was made in secret.

  • Relayman5C

    If you were my kid, I would pay for the SDK and let you program away. I'm thinking that the "foreign" code limitation you're talking about refers to the App Store. There is no restriction for putting privately-written code on your device. Let the kids do their thing!

    • I actually think there is – you can't provision an iPad to run development apps with XCode unless you join the Developer Program (not simply register, but the $99 sign-up) and obtain a developer certificate to sign your apps with.

      With XCode alone, you can run apps in the simulator, but you must formally join the program to provision an app for running on a real device.

      However, if you're the father of a tech kid who wants to tweak his Apple device, I'm certain you could also jailbreak it and have fun anyway.

      • David

        If your kid was serious, what's $99? I'm amazed at this? You go back to the 80's and 90's and this kind of processing power was affordable unless you were a corporation.

        Now, for the price of a night out you can join the dev network. Heck, I just got OS X 10.6.3 running in VMware 7, so its running on my Win 7 x64 box.

        There are countless free and low cost programming tools available. Cost is not a barrier.

  • famousringo

    The best is when the analysts call it a "media tablet" and then go on to discuss how it's impacting PC sales. The cognitive dissonance is powerful.

  • MattF

    I suspect that there's a power tradeoff in the iPad design between the CPU and the GPU– and that Apple chose to go for graphics performance that would smoke the competition. That chart of iPad vs. MacBook vs. iMac should have one more row showing the comparative graphics performance– it's no contest, I suspect.

    • CndnRschr

      Nah. Doubling cpu power in one generation was more than sufficient. It'll stay as dual core for the next iteration too. Adding four cores would be waste of battery life. The gpu power is a surprise but will also set the iPad apart. So much for all of the Tegra2 hype. The iPad2's gpu will likely hold its own with the Tegra3. As for iPad3, well that would be just about the right time for a double resolution display – since the current gpu clearly has the muscle to handle all of those pixels being pushed around.

  • chano

    Mark, I put it down to iPad's obvious ease of use – its sheer approachability.
    It's not a product, it's an idea made real.
    Anyone from 1 to 101 years just gets it.
    They buy without hesitation because it is obvious that it brings pleasure and satisfaction, not remorse.
    You can't beat that kind of belief in an idea(l) device that is available and affordable.
    Where's the risk in buying one?

  • Apple is very agressive on throttling the A5 in the iPad to conserve power. There have been some people post notes on how to get the benchmarks to post 1000 MHz for the clock speed.

    So my guess is that most of the time the A5 is clocked at 200-300 Mhz. Once load hits it ramps up to 900 MHz and hits 1GHz only under some very specific conditions.

    It would be fun to have an iPad 2 to tear apart and see what makes it tick in that regard.

  • CndnRschr

    Apple will continue to position the iPad as a post-PC as this provides some reassurance to people that it's born of the loins of the PC but has evolved into something more than and different from a PC. Quite when they'll break the tether to the PC is unclear. It'll certainly be a while before the tether is completely cut, but it'll probably be sooner than later that a PC becomes non-essential in operating the iPad thanks to the MobileMe expansion and the Carolina's cloud investment. In retrospect, MobileMe came into its own (albeit through baby steps) with iOS devices. I doubt even Steve Jobs had the foresight to position MobileMe/dotMac as the platform for post-PC devices (but someone will make that claim – I'm looking at you Gruber).

  • Peter Speck

    The iMac models have become more and more like an iPad: the first iMac was bulky and heavy, the latest iMac models look like an Apple Display, that is, a big stationary iPad. The computer itself becomes so small, that only the display is visible.
    The only major difference besides size is the input method. This could create another halo effect for mac sales.

    • Fake Tim Cook

      I would love to see a 17" iPad desktop computer. No battery, iMac like stand with the ability to pivot to portrait and landscape modes.

      • clodoaldo

        If you've got a (quite hefty) 17" screen, is landscape/portrait flipping really a particularly appealing feature? A question for both the implementer and the user.

    • You really believe "The only major difference besides size is the input method." don't you?

      Good grief.

  • David

    Well, technically, the camera kit or even Dropbox gets the PC out of the picture.

  • FalKirk

    "All the reviewers spend time measuring and comparing things in a way that is completely irrelevant and meaningless with respect to the actual sale of the device."

    So true. It's the old argument of features v. benefits. Features are what the seller provides. Benefits are what the buyer receives. All buyers care about is the benefits.

    P.S. For purely selfish reasons, I hope you make a full recovery soon. Wouldn't want to be deprived of your many insightful thoughts.

  • FalKirk

    It's like calling a bull a cow and pretending that it makes a difference. You know the animal by what it does, not by what it's called. Same with the iPad.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    Totally irrelevant. Your mom can go into an Apple Store, buy an iPad, ask for it to be activated there, and she is good to go. The things she can't do with iPad without a PC are the same things she can't do with a standalone Windows PC: OS upgrades and backup. Consumers don't do those thongs with Windows PC's today. However, she can easily store all her data in the cloud with iPad, via iDisk or Dropbox or any server via Air Sharing. Getting a consultant to upgrade her iOS is faster and cheaper than getting a Windows upgrade. She can get photos onto an iPad via a USB cable or SD card, same as any PC. Yes, you have to deal with tiny USB ports or iPod dock connector on mobiles by using an adapter. So what?

    All the iTunes on Mac/PC stuff is optional. It's there because users want it, because 90% of consumers have a Mac or PC already with iTunes on it and gigabytes of media they don't want to pay to send over 3G.

    • Mattock

      You are right. And I would also venture to guess that one could make a Genius Bar appointment to get an iOS update.

  • Ingor

    It's a computer once you can program on it.

    Which means, that the hardware has always been a computer, and the software, thanks to Jobs' penchant to kill customer freedom, will never be a computer.

    • OK.

      Actually, the "Programming on it" is the most ridiculously arbitrary thing I have read in some time. But even then, there are many education programming languages that can be deployed to the iPad.

      • AFAIK there are no languages ON the iPad though where you can create an application on the iPad itself and deploy it even locally on your own iPad never mind to the App Store.

        Even something simple like an iPad version of Automator doesn't exist and seems to be frowned upon as not being what the iPad is about. Personally, I find it terribly sad that you can't program ON the iPad. I've had calculators with more programming potential. But that's me.

    • Jaryd

      Apple gives normal consumers, you know, most people, the freedom to use technology without fear. It lets a grandmother video chat easily. It lets a child with Down Syndrome become independent and confident. That is the freedom that the iPad gives people. For those few who want to develop apps, they can from their wonderful PC.

      Look outside your needs for a moment.

    • vinner57

      That sort of nerd-metric has no relevance in the real world – where people never programme their computers and buy iPads by the million. "Freedom' is not an an absolute. There are always trade-offs. Apple's expertise is in judging the trade-offs to make their products appealing to as many people as possible. You know… to make money.

      • David

        It's not even a nerd metric. Look I have 3 PCs and two laptops at home. Two of the PCs run VMware running XP, Win7 x86 and x64, Win2k3, Win2k8 and now OS X 10.6.3.

        I've created my home HTPC. I've been a professional developer for over 16yrs. I have an iPad and I think it is a computer.

        Look, I write an enterprise server side Java application that will deploy onto some multi-CPU server running Aix or Solaris. This is a production server. No one programs on it. We only use or dev boxes to code up the app. Then, we deploy to a test system. Then after it passes that, it gets deployed to the Aix box.

        Is the production box a computer? Not by Ingor's definition because *no one programs on it*. Ever. It is a production system. You only ever load software, then run it. What does this sound like?

        I know this isn't an exact analogy, but there are plenty of systems that are computers that you use emulators for. Perhaps for cost, perhaps because the dev environment isn't as good. However, there are also plenty of big iron systems you don't directly write code on either.

        They are all computers.

    • Developer

      People who talk about Apple (or even more absurdly "Jobs") as killing customer freedom are liars. That's all there is to it. You can't program an Android device without getting development tools and running them on your computer. You can't install software on an android device without jailbreaking it.

      The reality is, android is a crappy copy of iOS and it is so embarrassing that you cannot defend it. So instead you lie about Apple "killing consumer freedom".

      This dishonesty shows you to be a person without integrity, and thus someone to be shunned.

      • David

        I believe that anyone who seriously want to program for either system and has the least amount of drive or aptitude won't be deterred by the fact that neither Android nor iOS can run an IDE.

      • I'm not sure defending Apple by saying 'Android does it too' isn't equally facile.

    • Sander van der Wal

      iPad is as close to an Universal Turing Machine as a desktop pc. It doen't have a native development environment, but there were lots of computers in the past with the same "problem".

    • Steven

      How is Steve Jobs killing customer freedom? You are perfectly free not to purchase any Apple product.

  • unhinged

    And yet, in the days of the Apple II, we did not have that and we learned how to be developers anyway.

    To my eyes, the world has changed – we now live in a time where having more than one computer is economically viable, which means that requiring a second device to program the first is not a significant impediment. Heck, look at LEGO and all the cool stuff you can do with that – where are the complaints that you can't program those without using a PC?

  • asymco

    Your experience resembles mine. You have a point. However when we were young was it not the case that "real programmers" had time-shared "real computers" and would not consider those toys we played with as a valid way to learn programming? Weren't there purists who thought that only FORTRAN or COBOL or Assembler were real programming languages, not that silly BASIC we used? Did they not lament that kids were learning all the wrong things?

    Each generation redefines quality.

    • Kevinv

      I learned assembler on an Apple //e as a kid. I couldn't afford the assembler program so I pirated it.

      If you can afford the Mac and iOS device but not the $99 then any kid desiring to learn to code for it will jailbreak it and load apps that way.

      I do think Apple should offer an educational version of it's enterprise app store that let's students write apps without the need of a dev license but that's fairly minor issue.

  • berult

    A 9,7" diagonal window on the future. A window that happens to be on the physical scale of a human brain and on the figurative scale of the imaginative mind. The right scaling through and through, and above and beyond; a neuronic compact bounded by teasing infinity.

    For the fingers, …a platform, …a surface to bench press a fatty mastermind…

    • Harvey Gartner

      Beautiful. Thanks.

  • Jaquin

    What would it mean if the analysts considered it a computer?? Would they be more accurate in their predictions??
    Yeah, didn't think so.
    With so much computing power around, in our phones, in our cars, in our toys and game consoles; what if the iPad is a computing appliance like the console, that people can agree has lots of computing power but is not enough of a "work" machine that they are willing to give it the moniker "computer". I am not saying you cannot work on it.
    We are talking about functionality, which I think is what Apple prefers rather than some arbitrary numbers (HD's chart notwithstanding).
    I think we are coming close to the point where Apple and others will try to get us to think of our computing needs based on what Appliance does each job best, a multi appliance future. Microwave and stove, fridge and freezer, computer and iPad.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    I think the "spec sheet" in the buyer's mind is a list of apps they are going to run, which is essentially a list of the devices that an iPad replaces for that user. Could be replacing a netbook, game console, music production system, book, photo album, sketchbook, paint and canvas, video player, whatever. Not necessarily replacing as in you get rid of the dedicated devices, although in some cases you do, but at least replacing them as in when you are away from your game console, you still have a game console with you in your iPad. Or when you are away from your music production system, you still have a music production system in your iPad.

    If you look at the iPod, the proposition there was originally "iTunes to go". You were already using iTunes on your Mac, and you were listening to digital music off your Mac. Then iPod took your music player to go. iPad does the same thing, but instead of just one app (music player) it is any app, because of App Store and Safari and the full size PC class screen. Any PC app or Web page can run on there, with very little work for developers, because it is native C apps and HTML Web apps.

    So for each user, you can ask "what do you need/want to take with you to go?" Gamers buy for games primarily, readers for books, songwriters for a musical sketchbook, social networking junkies for Facebook and Twitter and so on, photographers for a photo album of all of their photos, and so on. So iPad is like a few hundred thousand niche devices in one, it has a very broad appeal but for very different reasons for every user.

    If we were doing a chart of tablet versus tablet, the headings should be things like versatility, stability, usability, mobility, durability, longevity … not GHz and GB.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    iPhone 4 has USB2. That is the match for FireWire, and in fact, USB2 replaced FireWire in the iPod dock connector. No, it doesn't have a desktop USB port, but it has a docking connector that has multiple ports in it, because those ports do not physically fit on iPhone 4, and one of those ports is USB2. You can still attach USB2 devices such as audio interfaces like Apogee Jam, or any USB card reader.

    3G more closely corresponds to Ethernet.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    It's a 1GHz chip and can hit 1GHz when that is required.

  • Dick Applebaum

    @Mark Hernandez

    "It would be so cool if someone could find a way to measure the ACTUAL THING THAT ACTUALLY SELLS IPADS. And it is NOT the specs. "

    I, too, have been trying to define the thing that sells iPads…

    "Magical" is a good start — but it describes the attraction rather than the motivation to buy.

    Yhe best I can come up with is "comfortable" — the iPad is "comfortable".

    I posted the following to the Zune thread, without preamble — to see if anyone would make the connection to what Apple is "selling" vs Microsoft.

    P.S. Did you work for Apple in the 1978-1989 timeframe — your name is very familiar

    1 travel in comfort: ease, relaxation, repose, serenity, tranquility, contentment, coziness; luxury, opulence, prosperity; bed of roses.
    2 words of comfort: consolation, solace, condolence, sympathy, commiseration; support, reassurance, cheer.

    a friend tried to comfort her: console, solace, condole with, commiserate with, sympathize with; support, succor, ease, reassure, soothe, calm; cheer, hearten, uplift. ANTONYMS distress, depress.

  • Dick Applebaum


    I was going to reply to your earlier post re: programming on the iPad for the iPad — but this seems like a better place.

    I read your linked comment — and mostly agree that a HyperCard-like approach [initially] appears to be the solution, but quickly runs into the "event horizon".

    Maybe, an alternate approach would be predefined application templates and IB-like manipulation of the user interface.

    In any case, I don't think that we'll see a solution soon.

    However, that does not invalidate the rest of your comments — Application visualization, design, prototyping and programming can benefit from a 3D interactive approach… a multitouch approach.

    The iPad 2 demos of iMovie and GarageBand illustrate what multitouch can do to simplify rather difficult A/V content creation — much superior to a mouse/kb.

    I suspect that the coming versions of Apple's Final Cut and Logic will allow an attached iPad to act as a peripheral to a Mac — specifically, a graphics tablet and a multitouch control surface for manipulating time lines and nodes/doodles.

    I wonder what would happen if the iPad peripheral could be utilized as a multitouch control surface for 3D
    application visualization, design, prototyping and programming.

  • Dick Applebaum


    I was going to reply to your earlier post re: programming on the iPad for the iPad — but this seems like a better place.

    I read your linked comment — and mostly agree that a HyperCard-like approach [initially] appears to be the solution, but quickly runs into the "event horizon".

    Maybe, an alternate approach would be predefined application templates and IB-like manipulation of the user interface.

    In any case, I don't think that we'll see a solution soon.

    However, that does not invalidate the rest of your comments — Application visualization, design, prototyping and programming can benefit from a 3D interactive approach… a multitouch approach.

    The iPad 2 demos of iMovie and GarageBand illustrate what multitouch can do to simplify rather difficult A/V content creation — much superior to a mouse/kb.

    I suspect that the coming versions of Apple's Final Cut and Logic will allow an attached iPad to act as a peripheral to a Mac — specifically, a graphics tablet and a multitouch control surface for manipulating time lines and nodes/doodles.

    I wonder what would happen if the iPad peripheral could be utilized as a multitouch control surface for 3D
    application visualization, design, prototyping and programming.

  • As far as I know, the MacBook does have an accelerometer. To park the HDD head during sudden jerking movements and prevent damage to the platters.

    • Steven

      The 2006 MacBook did not have an accelerometer. That was a feature added later

  • davel

    One point regarding these comparisons. All Gigaflops and MHz are not the same.

  • davel

    oops. sorry. should have stuck with MHz 🙂

  • FinnA

    Just to be the 'well actually' guy — the intel processor and the ARM are quite different. The desktop chip is three to four times faster at the same clock speed. But it does use MUCH more more energy.

  • Steven

    Excellent "feeds and speeds" comparison. Unfortunately, the "market analysts" responsible for deciding what gets labeled a computer and what doesn't won't heed this sort of common-sense comparison because it would force them to deviate from the way in which they are comfortable presenting information to their clients. Especially coming from Apple, it's much easier for them to treat this thing like it was just FedEx-ed in from Mars. It's the reason they had to come up with some esoteric name for it: media tablet. If Bill Gates' Tablet PC had taken off the way he predicted, you can bet that statistically it would be lumped in with all other PC's.

    The irony is that Steve Ballmer has already labeled iPad "just another PC," in which case Apple is now the largest computer maker in the world. The analysts aren't prepared to deal with that reality just yet.

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