It has been called many things, and until today didn’t even officially have a name. It would be a Kindle killer, and maybe it would save dying print media. It would revolutionize the way people watch TV and movies, listen to music, play games and even read around the house or on the go. And today it has a name. The iPad.
Speaking to a packed invite-only crowd at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco that included former Vice President Al Gore, today Apple CEO Steve Jobs made it official. The iPad, the long rumored touchscreen tablet computer, is real. Industry analysts have seen this as a link between the smartphone and the laptop.
The device, which lacks a hardware keyboard (not counting a docking accessory), was demonstrated with Jobs typing on its glass screen. And unlike other e-readers, such as Amazon.com’s Kindle or Plastic Logic’s newly announced Que, the iPad tablet offers color (but not e-ink).
But already bloggers and analysts alike are asking is this really revolutionary? One commonly seen comment online is that the iPad looks like an oversized iPod Touch. It weighs about 1.5 pounds, is about half an inch thick and has a 9.7-inch display, along with a battery life of about 10 hours. It runs on Apple’s own 1GHz A4 chip, and of course is compatible with the Apple’s iTunes Store right out of the box (the service is built-in, in fact). It can further run social networking sites such as YouTube in high-definition, and since storage is going to be an issue for all those apps and content, will be available with 16GB and 64GB versions.
According to reports, using the device seemed easy enough as Jobs demonstrated to the audience. The interface relies on multi-touch finger gestures and swipes much like the iPhone, but because the screen is much larger, it is less about swipes and more about just gesturing/dragging the finger across the screen (I see a cottage industry launching tomorrow for cleaning products!).
The question now is whether the iPad will be a success along the lines of the iPod or iPhone, or whether it will end up along side now mostly forgotten bad Apples, such as the PowerMac G4 Cube, Apple TV or most notably the Newton – the latter being the company’s first foray into a tablet, albeit a much smaller version. The Newton came out in 1993 just as the PDA market was about to take off, and it crashed and burned while the Palm Pilot and other PDA devices soared, breaking ground for what would eventually become smartphones.
The problem the iPad faces is that it isn’t so much innovative or revolutionary in what it does, but rather how it has combined many different functions into one device. This, of course, is what Apple is best at; taking a product category that has good products and making a great one. Apple did it with digital music stores and created iTunes, then it took portable music players and made it better with the iPod, and more recently Apple made a smartphone for everyone without the patience to use a smartphone and created the iPhone. With the iPad the issue is whether this is really the best a product can be.