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iPad 2: it’s about sex appeal, not specs appeal

I’ve decided to compete with Rihanna in the international pop market, so for the last few weeks I’ve been building a rival in my shed. It’s not going too well, to be honest.

I don’t know what the problem is. I mean, I’ve got the specs exactly right: there are bones, and guts, and teeth, and hair, and ears. In fact, my specs are better, because my Rihanna has two heads and four lungs. And yet I can’t persuade anybody in the record business to give me any money. And now it’s starting to whiff a bit.

I think tablet manufacturers know how I feel.

Steve Jobs nailed it yesterday when he said “technology is not enough.”What makes the iPad and the iPad 2 special isn’t an A4 processor or an A5; it’s iOS and the apps it runs. My Rihanna rival is useless, because it doesn’t sing. The iPad… the iPad sings.

I have no idea how much RAM is in the iPad 2. I can’t remember the A5’s clock speed. The two bits of the Apple event that made me go wow didn’t involve benchmarks, or spec sheets: they were the bits where we saw the magnetic covers, which made me laugh out loud, and when we got to see GarageBand, which made me wish I were 16 again while also making me glad I’m old enough that I won’t hear the awful crap it’s going to help people create.

In fact, rather than make me crazy about the iPad 2, yesterday’s event made me even happier about my first generation iPad. There are two things in iOS 4.3 that will make a big difference to my everyday life: the personal hotspot feature coming to the iPhone 4, and home sharing coming to the iPad. Taken together, that means my 16GB Wi-Fi iPad has just become an UnlimitedGB 3G iPad. For free.

Any thoughts I might have had about jumping to a non-iOS device have just gone out of the window.

Apple’s event wasn’t really about technology. Instead of banging on about the A5 processor, Apple showed us how to play the drums and strum guitars, muck about with home movies and morph nine different faces simultaneously. Instead of talking about RAM, Apple showed off Smart Covers – a mere accessory that delivers more joy than most firms’ entire product portfolios, and something I think is going to be responsible for loads of iPad 2 sales.

What Apple gets – and what I think a lot of firms don’t – is that most people, the kind of people who are currently buying iOS devices and apps in extraordinary quantities, don’t care about specifications any more than they want to think about how their lunchtime sausages are made.

They know what iPads are, and they like what they see, and when they see a rival tablet they’ll ask, “hey, why would I buy this instead of an iPad?” And the answer they get is gigahertz, and true multitasking, and other stuff they don’t care about.

I can show you the problem in two videos. First, the iPad. We see books and games, and education, and fun. Not only do I want to buy that, but I want to have the kind of cool, intelligent and exciting lifestyle the ad implies.

Now, the Verizon ad for the Motorola Xoom. It couldn’t be more teenage-boy if it took place in a black-painted room full of suspiciously crispy socks.

Buy it? That ad makes me scared to even touch it.