What we know about the iPad 3

It's easy to predict what the iPad 3 will be, just as it is to predict the reaction to its launch.

Even Apple, probably the most notoriously secretive company in the world, hasn't been able to keep everyone in the dark about what they are launching today.

We know they'll be announcing the iPad 3. We can also make an extremely educated guess as to what the update will entail - definitely a speed bump, probably a retina display similar to the iPhone 4's, maybe even a curveball inclusion of LTE networking technology (or "4G", as it will be known).

We know it'll sell quickly, and in huge numbers; as of last month, 55 million iPads had been sold, a number which took the iPhone three years to reach, and which the Mac didn't hit for over two decades. Taking the operating system, iOS, as a whole - including iPhones, iPod touches and iPads in the count - more were sold in 2011 (156 million) than all Macs ever sold (122 million).

And we know it will be slammed as a disappointing launch, with blame perhaps placed at the feet of Tim Worstall, the company's new CEO, for not living up to his predecessor Steve Jobs. Unless that unlikely 4G networking is included - and maybe even if it is - it will fail to live up to the analyst's expectations. It will be similar to - maybe even visually indistinguishable from - the iPad 2, and be condemned for that.

Fundamentally, people have failed to comprehend the transition between the Apple of, roughly, 2001 to 2007, when it had its remarkable string of sucessess beginning with the iPod and ending with the iPhone, and the Apple of 2007 to the present, when it has steadily built up the iPhone, introduced the iPad, and grown its business to become the largest company in the world.

The former Apple shocked at nearly every product launch. That first launch of the iPod, a bizarre product to come from a B-list computer manufacturer; the iPod Nano, a total overhaul of their previously biggest selling iPod, the mini, just 18 months after it had launched; the various Shuffles, each radically different from what came before; and eventually the iPhone itself, so revolutionary that RIM, makers of the Blackberry, thought it was literally impossible.

But the latter Apple, the post-iPhone company, takes a different track. Introduce one product, and iterate, iterate, iterate. Revolutionary product announcements are a thing of the past. As Apple blogger John Gruber writes, they roll:

As in, they start with a few tightly packed snowballs and then roll them in more snow to pick up mass until they’ve got a snowman. That’s how Apple builds its platforms. It’s a slow and steady process of continuous iterative improvement—so slow, in fact, that the process is easy to overlook if you’re observing it in real time. Only in hindsight is it obvious just how remarkable Apple’s platform development process is.

The iPad 2 is an incremental update to the iPad. The iPad 3 will be an incremental update to the iPad 2. But compare whatever is annouced tomorrow to the original product - or even more damningly, to the rest of the tablet market, such as it exists - and it is clear that, however they do it, the Apple of today is just as ground-breaking as they've been at every other point in the past decade.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the event introducing the iPhone 4S Credit: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.