Apple’s long-rumored tablet device, iPad, was heralded by Apple CEO Steve Jobs today following the strains of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. But will a recession-weary, iPhone-wielding public be singing “It Ain’t Me, Babe” by the time the $499-$829 iPad roll out starts in late March?
Serving as a middle ground between the smart phone and laptop, and as Apple’s entry into the cheap Netbook market, the 9.7-inch iPad is a lightweight device (.5 inches thick, 1.5 lbs) designed to browse the Web, share photos, watch videos, listen to music and play games. The iPad will also handle e-books (ePub format) through the new app iBooks.
“Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle. We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further,” Jobs said. “It looks like a bookshelf. … It’s an iBook Store to allow you to discover, purchase and download e-books right on your iPad.”
Like most Apple products, iPad looks great—but looks aren’t everything.
The iPad runs on the iPhone OS, which doesn’t support Adobe Flash without a workaround, so portions of the Web (from movie sites to online gaming) won’t be available to iPad users. And according to Jobs, the device will run “almost all” of the iPhone apps—iPod Touch users will be happy to lend a sympathetic shoulder. Also like the Touch, iPad doesn’t feature a camera, much less a Webcam, video output, USB or firewire ports. And forget multitasking—running two or more apps at the same time—which we take for granted now on desktops and laptops.
As far as what’s under the hood, iPad is powered by a custom silicon chip called the A4 (1Ghz) and includes WiFi, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, compass, speaker, microphone, dock connector and 10-hour battery. Although the iPad isn’t designed to be a phone, Skype via WiFi will likely be an option. One thing Apple got right with the iPad was offering a peripheral keyboard dock in addition to its virtual keyboard. “If you’ve got to write ‘War and Peace,’ just plug your iPad in,” Jobs said.
The first iPad model (WiFi only), will be available in late March with pricing at $499 (16 GB stoarge), $599 (32 GB) and $699 (64 GB). The second model, which includes WiFi with a 3G connection through AT&T (yeah, sorry Verizon and Sprint customers), will be available in late April featuring price points of $629 (16 GB), $729 (32 GB) and $829 (64 GB). The monthly 3G data plan options are: $14.99 for 250 MB or $29.99 for unlimited access.
For international customers – pricing for 3G is coming this summer.
Considering this was one of the most anticipated product launches in consumer electronics history, the response thus far has been a notch above meh. It didn’t have the oomph of the iMac in 1998 or the iPhone in 2007.
Hype surrounding the iPad reached a fever pitch toward the end of December 2009 when MacRumors reported that Apple had purchased the domain name iTablet.com in 2007 through MarkMonitor.com. Additional names thrown into the mix included iSlate and MacTablet.
Apple first played with the tablet concept in 1983 with its Bashful prototype and then created one of the first handheld PDAs with the Newton. But the 21st century development of the tablet PC left Apple loyalists desperate to find a laptop-sized Mac equivalent. Los Angeles-based Axiotron won the Best in Show award at the 2007 MacWorld Conference with its after-market Modbook, which remains the only tablet-form Mac available to the public until iPad rolls out in March.
The iPad is rightly being called an iPod Touch on steroids. We’re no longer wowed by features like touch screens, virtual keyboards and mobile apps. These features were unique in 2007, when we were first introduced to the iPhone. Today they’re pedestrian, expected.
Hardware deficiencies aside, Apple will need to update its iPhone OS to make the iPad an appealing alternative to Windows-native Netbooks. Yes, iPad offers more features than an e-book reader like Kindle, but its inability to support basics like Adobe Flash or multitasking might make consumers think twice about a product that’s almost double the cost of its PC competitors.
And then there’s the name, which “Mad TV” predicted (and rightly mocked) in 2006… (mature audiences only)