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Who ate all the iPies?

Apple's mid-life crisis in tablet form

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Comment So, a portlier iPhone has emerged from Cupertino with typical fanfare and panache, but even the hardcore fans seem disappointed by what is essentially an iPhone with a mid-life crisis.

The waistband has expanded, but in every other respect the iPad remains almost identical to its original form with all the omissions in place - no multitasking, no Flash compatibility, not even widescreen video playback to enjoy on the media device that won't even play FarmVille. Apple's new baby has the look of a middle-aged man searching for meaning as the dreams of his youth are curtailed by life's responsibilities.

Not that the iPhone isn't where it wanted to be at this point - sales are stratospheric, and it's fair to say that Apple has redefined what users expect from a telephone, not to mention shaking up the whole industry and its value chain. But that's in the past, and yesterday fans were expecting something radical - what they got was an ageing guy in a new shirt sporting a different haircut.

Not that it's all Apple's fault - the company has responsibilities too. Responsibilities to developers who don't want to rewrite their applications, responsibilities to shareholders who want to maintain the customer lock-in that iTunes represents (which is why Flash can't be allowed). Apple wanted to reinvent the iPhone, but wasn't prepared to walk away from the responsibilities it had established; it's been obliged to play it safe, be grown-up.

So the iPhone gets a bit fatter and pulls up in a red sports car, but it's still an iPhone and does little an iPhone can't do. Just as when your boss suddenly changes haircut and starts dressing casually, he might look a bit different but inside the same weight of responsibility prevents him making any real changes. ®

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