The weeks of waiting and speculation are now over. Today, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, unveiled a new device for Apple called the “iPad.” Building upon the success of the iPhone/iPod Touch OS and the elegance of the MacBook Pro lines but with the portability of the MacBook Air, Apple reaffirmed its innovative stance within the technology arena. I followed the coverage of the announcement fairly closely, but as usual, getting information from these types of Apple Events is difficult (hint: hey Apple, next time invite me to these types of things!). As I flipped between various live-blogs as well as listening to choppy streaming audio coming from people’s phones, I definitely shared the excitement of the announcements.
It was definitely a roller coaster ride during the lengthy introduction, with points in the presentation where I started tuning out, then only be to be drawn back by some innovative new announcements. If you want the big details that I think most people are looking for, here there are:
- 3 Sizes – 16 GB, 32 GB & 64 GB flash drives
- Networking – Wifi or Wifi plus 3G
- Wifi version – $499, $599 & $699 (based on sizes above)
- Wifi + 3G – $629, $729 & $829 (based on sizes above)
- Data Plan Pricing
- 250 MB/mo – $14.99
- Unlimited – $29.99
- Month-to-month – no contracts
- AT&T is data carrier
- Data plans can be purchased on the iPad itself
- Dimensions & Weight
- Height x Width x Depth – 9.56 x 7.47 x 0.5 inches
- Weight – 1.5-1.6 lbs (depending on version)
- Display – 9.7 in diagonal
If you want more specs, just take a look at them on Apple’s iPad spec page.
So What Do I Think?
Instead of going on and on talking about the features, I thought that I would simply do a brain dump of some thoughts that came to mind during and after the event. These are in no particular order so take them or leave them. If you have ideas or want to comment on these, please do so! I encourage the discussion.
- Physical Look & Feel – Well, for starters, Apple definitely kept it simple. It, to me, looks like a flattened 1st generation iPhone with the brushed aluminum back and the one button at the bottom. It’s simple. It’s elegant. And it’s functional. The black bezel, for example, around the frame really calls out to be simply grabbed by your hands. It’s not too big nor too small (although I would expect a larger model to be released potentially, perhaps as a 2nd generation, with a 12″ diagonal screen). I have not held it, but I know how Apple products generally feel, solid, tightly engineered and simple. Will it be fragile? Unsure as of yet but the optional case looks like a must-have:
- The OS – I think that Apple really made a statement here by not producing a modified version of OS X. The fact that it is running the iPhone/Touch OS shows that Apple is committed to building upon that platform. And, that it can simply extend into the currently expansive ecosystem of existing iPhone applications – all are supposedly compatible on the iPad – makes great sense for consumers as well as developers. Consumers “should” be able to re-download apps to the iPad they have already purchased on the iPhone. Developers don’t necessarily have to rewrite any of their previously published code. Those iPhone apps will simply run (scaled) within the iPad. However, Apple did build upon the iPhone/Touch OS or make it robust enough to grow with the supported devices. However, there is that line that says “Almost all apps” – obviously there is NO CAMERA so your camera apps won’t work!
- Beyond the iPhone – As I listened to the announcements, I was starting to think that the iPad was simply a glorified iPod Touch with simply a larger form-factor. But as topics changed, I realized that Apple did truly work on some innovate software to place the iPad directly in between the iPhone/Touch and the Laptop. iWork is a great example. Each of the newly architected iWork apps (Keynote, Pages and Numbers) each cost only $9.99 – extremely reasonable. I only wish that they came out with $5 versions (mini version) that worked on the iPhone as well! So, the simple ability to do a bit more than basic word, spreadsheet and presentation actions on the iPad quickly moves the iPad out of that iPhone/Touch category. Other applications have been re-architected to use the larger real-estate including the address book, calendar, email application and photo viewer. Video now comes a bit closer to that of portable DVD players but with the ability to download content quickly and easily.
- Does It Work As An eBook Reader? – it was only a matter of time before Apple rolled its own eReader application into a device as well as included content within iTunes. They have the best App Store (in my opinion) and infrastructure to deliver books, magazines and newspapers in a digital format. At the entry-level pricepoint of $499, the iPad will give the Kindle a run for its money. The only thing that Amazon (currently) has on Apple is the depth of content available within their store. However, Amazon’s content is proprietary and Apple has adopted the ePub open standard for their books. eInk supposedly is easier on the eye compared to LCD screens (the iPad uses a LED-backlit glossy display with IPS technology). However, the Kindle retails for $259 or $489 for the DX version (will those prices not drop?). Apple was smart to release a MULTI-FUNCTION device that does more than the Kindle at pretty much the same price-point. Also, supposedly with specially crafted applications, content providers can go beyond simple text on a screen to include much richer media. The 10-hour battery isn’t too bad as well.
- To 3G or Not to 3G – personally, I thought that Apple would release a model at $799 with wifi only and then data-driven versions would be subsidized by the carrier at a lower price (e.g., $599) but with a 1 or 2 year commitment on a data plan (that would have been expensive as well). I was really surprised at the price point. The fact that 1) the price of the device is low, 2) the data plans are pretty low, and 3) the data plans are with no contract and month-to-month is really compelling. What is interesting is that the 3G version won’t be available until a few months after the Wifi-only version. I personally think that a lot of people will simply get the Wifi only version for the price point and its earlier availability. At least that is what I would do. I think I would rather have 64GB of storage space than have 16 GB of storage plus data access. If I need data and I’m out and about, I’m going to use my iPhone. Everywhere else, I will have access to Wifi to load music, words or video. So for me, NO 3G is the way to go.
- It’s NOT a Phone, It’s Not a Netbook Either – I do think that the iPad filled a niche. You could, potentially, turn it into an expensive speaker phone using Skype (iPhone app), wifi and a Bluetooth headset (or built in speaker/mic). But I don’t see this as a replacement to a cell phone. Nor is it a Netbook. The iPad is running an enhanced smartphone OS. It will NOT be able to do the same things that your netbook, notebook or laptop can do, however, it does just enough to go beyond a smartphone. Apple is masterful at creating a niche, something that you “think” you need because you “think” there is a hole right there currently. They wait to see what happens in and around the space and then simply jump in later and do it better and more elegantly. It is really an internet-connected, multimedia, productivity device. Just wait until Apple’s Lala purchase comes into play and you can stream all of your music content as well (meaning you don’t have to load it on your iPad). Let’s not forget about MobileMe either, couple in saving documents to MobileMe and your workplace travels within you and synchronizes across all of your connected devices.
I probably could go on and on about the Apple iPad. There is just too much dust in the air and a few unknowns before really saying that it will be a market-changer the way the iPod or iPhone were. As the announcements went on during the iPad introduction, I became a bit more intrigued and excited about the iPad: ranging from at first, not being that impressed, to later really thinking that it would be a great travel or commute companion or household-required device. I will hopefully get my hands on an iPad at the upcoming MacWorld Expo and will write more about it then (if not sooner).
Note: I have subsequently posted some more thoughts (a bit more critical in nature) on the iPad here.
I would love to hear your impressions. Was it what you expected? More? Less? What is the killer feature? Leave a comment and let me know!
HTD says: I think the iPad is a game-changer.