Apple’s “Speeds and Feeds” is a preemptive strike

March 5, 2011, 4:40 AM UTC

The maestro sets the agenda for the tablet industry…

My colleague Phillip Elmer-DeWitt this morning posted Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ closing words from the iPad event earlier this week.  In it, Apple (AAPL) CEO Jobs professed to extoll Apple’s post-PC credo.  One particular passage struck  me:

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.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of hardware working properly with software and the reverse.  But I think Jobs marrying that idea with a different, defensive one.  He is preemptively striking out at the tablets that are coming out over the next year that will meet and surpass Apple’s iPad specs.  He’s saying, don’t look at those, they don’t matter anymore.  They do, and Apple demonstrates this.

Clearly, the passage above is aimed at Google (GOOG) and Android.  Google makes the software and hardware manufacturers make the devices, just like pre-tablet PCs.  Does this model work on phones?  There are more than 350,000 Android people signing up for that model every day (more if you consider Windows Phone 7), so it appears to be working, at least as well as Apple’s model.

But tablets are somehow completely different that either the bigger PCs or smaller phones?  Joshua Topolsky, editor of Engadget, takes Jobs’ words and runs with them in a post called, Editorial: It’s Apple’s ‘post-PC’ world — we’re all just living in it.

In this new world, Apple no longer has to compete on specs and features, nor does it want to. There is no Mac vs. PC here — only “the future” versus “the past.” It won’t be a debate about displays, memory, wireless options — it will be a debate about the quality of the experience. Apple is not just eschewing the spec conversation in favor of a different conversation — it’s rendering those former conversations useless. It would be like trying to compare a race car to a deeply satisfying book. In a post-PC world, the experience of the product is central and significant above all else. It’s not the RAM or CPU speed, screen resolution or number of ports which dictate whether a product is valuable; it becomes purely about the experience of using the device.

Topolsky, the editor of one of the leading gadget blogs is clearly missing the irony here.  “Displays, memory, wireless options
RAM, CPU and screen resolution.”

The first thing that comes to mind is: yes memory and wireless options do matter!  In fact, storage and wireless options are the
thing that differentiate iPads from one another (except the new white color).  And that’s just the beginning.

Let’s travel waaay back in time to the last iPhone launch.  Can anyone really say Apple doesn’t care about screen resolution with the 960×640 pixel Retina display?

Of course not.  Apple couldn’t stop talking about its “326 pixels per inch” Retina display outdoing the competition.  But there was no talk of the iPad’s screen resolution because the XOOM beats the iPad.

At this week’s event, whether true or not, Apple said that it had the first (shipping in volume) dual core 1GHz processor.  That is CPU speed specs.  Apple does specs with the best of them…

And that brings us to RAM. Apple didn’t address this, instead choosing to point to the “speeds and feeds”mantra.

For the laymen, RAM helps an OS run more applications at the same time.  For instance, the XOOM can run a bunch of tabbed browser windows at the same time.  Apple’s iPad 2 likely doesn’t match what is already out there.  The Galaxy Tab and XOOM both have a GB of RAM.

And here’s another example: At the last iPhone event, Apple posted the specs of the iPhone 4’s camera.

Did you hear what kind of camera was on the back of the iPad 2?  Apple would only say that it would shoot 720P video.  That’s because it doesn’t even match the camera on last year’s Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The truth is that Apple talks a lot about specs and speeds when it can say Apple is the leader.  If Apple is already behind, it says those numbers aren’t important.

That’s a strategy Apple employs to keep consumers, like Mr. Topolsky above, in line.  It is certainly working.