Why Apple's iPad 2 will be another hit

Being thinner, lighter, faster keeps it ahead of rivals for now

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Something that might be useful for enterprises is the support for video mirroring (though you need the $39 dock-to-HDMI Digital AV Adapter). Video mirroring is built into iOS 4.3, but the feature is available only on the iPad 2. I expect that to be useful for anyone who wants to use the iPad 2 as a presentation tool. The adapter supports rotation; outputs 1080p video from any app; and has an additional Dock connection port near the HDMI connection, so the iPad can charge its battery while it's being used for presentations. Good news, current iOS users: this adapter also works on original iPads, iPhone 4s and the latest iPod Touch -- though full video mirroring is only available on the latest iPad.

It's the App Store, stupid

Hardware is only part of the equation. What makes a tablet successful is the software. After all, when the entire computer is a screen in your hand, there's nothing left but software. That's where Apple's App Store continues to shine. The software available through it is generally of good quality, and there have been no malware outbreaks, as happened with the Android store earlier this week. To be frank, the App Store is what other software stores on other platforms long to be, and with good reason: Overall, there are more than 65,000 apps available for the iPad. When considering the success of iOS devices, this cannot be underestimated, and it's one reason the debate about whether the iPad can keep up with rivals misses the point.

Other tablets may have newer hardware, more RAM or extra features; none has the App Store.

Apple engineers continue to push the envelope further with updates to iOS 4; iOS 4.3 is due to be released March 11, the same day the iPad goes on sale. Not only limited to the new iPad, iOS 4.3 runs on the original iPads, newer iPhones (except the Verizon iPhone), and the iPod Touch. The iOS update features several improvements, including systemwide AirPlay features, better support for iTunes Home Sharing, and faster Safari browsing (and for the iPhone 4, personal hotspot functions).

The big debate seems to be whether this update keeps the iPad in front of rivals, and for how long. I'd say it does. The iPad is already hugely successful, selling more, according to Jobs, in nine months than any tablet in the past decade. This is a device that has redefined how people use computers, and its reach is not limited to just consumers. Companies are rolling out iPads instead of more expensive laptops; healthcare facilities are using them. So are law offices and financial firms. In less than a year, it has found a home in the workplace.

Expect to see more iPad 2s showing up at work as soon as they're available.

Of course, Apple isn't the only company interested in the tablet market now. There's competition from the Xoom, HP's TouchPad and Samsung's Galaxy 1, among others. But Apple's success has never required that it own whatever market it attacks -- it's doing just fine in the desktop OS market with a small percentage -- and it almost certainly will lose some of its big market lead in the months ahead. (I'm really positive about Android -- especially Google's latest Honeycomb release.)

Having said that, it's important to remember that the iPad 2, like the original, is a part of the larger Apple ecosystem. Having well-done apps that are curated and monitored closely also gives Apple a powerful advantage in the market for the foreseeable future, allowing it to leverage its vertical integration strategy to great effect. That, as much as new hardware, should keep Apple in the tablet lead.

Buying advice

Should you get an iPad 2? If you already own last year's iPad and you're happy with what you've got -- and aren't interested in the performance improvements, lighter/thinner body, and multiple cameras -- then there's nothing here that the current iPad can't already do. But if your plan was to purchase an iPad for the first time, there really couldn't be a better time to do so.

It's safe to say this model will be another hit for Apple and sell very, very well. Don't believe me? Just wait a week and watch for lines at the local Apple store.

IDG Enterprise's John Gallant talks with Computerworld News Editor Ken Mingis about the new iPad 2, the new features, whether it surpasses competitors, and what enterprises can expect.

Michael deAgonia, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is an award-winning writer, computer consultant and technologist who has been working on computers since 1993. You can find him on Twitter.

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