Apple unveils iPad 2 in San Francisco, reminds us of the stories we should tell every day

iPad 2 with Covers

It happened. As was widely rumored and feverishly anticipated by technology pundits around the world, iconic Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2 at a media event yesterday in San Francisco. It's all really very exciting and whatnot, and the device is fascinating, useful, super-duper, etc. But the launch yesterday represents a much more interesting undercurrent in the market place for post-PC devices. The biggest question from yesterday's event?

What is wrong with every single competitor in this space?

Apple introduced the iPad 1 last year, around the same time. In the year since, Samsung has come out with a tablet running the Android operating system. Blackberry maker RIM has repeatedly announced that their tablet will be fantastic. If you have a Blackberry. And it's on, and in your pocket. They've been talking about their tablet for months with no sure sign that it's ever going to launch apart from a few happy demos at a recent technology trade event. The press seems to be aflutter with the new Motorola Xoom tablet, though Motorola can't seem to manufacture the darned things in a way that they can come anywhere close to Apple on price--the Xoom starts at $800, almost twice as much as the starting price of the iPad.

This is simply starting to look embarrassing. But there's a story here, and it's buried in this quote from Carolina Milanesi from Gartner:

Competitors are making the same mistake that mobile vendors made with their response to iPhone: they are making the battle about hardware, and with tablets this is even less the case than it was for smartphones. What you are empowered to do with your tablet makes the difference.

Apple's story has always been one of nuance, not muscle. It's about how these devices are beautiful, and at the same time invisible, allowing users to do what they want more fluidly than ever before. For Apple, these devices are a means to delivering service to users; whether that's delivering the latest books, movies, and music in a best-in-class experience, or providing a platform for developers to write great apps to do the same for their own users. This is how Apple changes the world every day, by building the tools and technologies that so elegantly convince users that they can do the same.

That's also why it's much more fun to talk about Apple than so many of their competitors. Because at the end of the day, we should all be able to look back at the activity in our own service centers and claim that we were able to deliver the same best-in-class service to our customers that Apple delivers to theirs. In higher ed, can you say that about financial aid? Administration? Facilities? Contrary to what we often trick ourselves into believing, all the towers of pomp and circumstance exist to support one core mission: to create a best-in-class environment for our students such that they may go forth and change the world themselves.