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Steve Jobs delivers the iPad

After all the frenzy and the hype, Apple’s mythical tablet computer is finally here. But will customers buy the thing?


 

And the heavens opened and Steve Jobs spaketh, “Here is your iPad.”

After months of intense anticipation and wild rumour mongering by Apple enthusiasts, the company’s CEO finally unveiled its latest offering today to the assembled masses in San Francisco—a tablet device that aims to meld the mobility of a smartphone with the functionality of a laptop. As Jobs said, it’s “way better than a laptop, way better than a phone.”

But now that we know what it is, can it live up to the hype?

When something generates this much attention—by one estimate, more than 25,000 online articles have been written about the Apple tablet since the start of this month—you have to expect someone to be disappointed. So it was today. Outside the Yerba Buena Center, where today’s event was held, dozens of people were huddled around smartphones reading live updates from inside. Their instant reactions hinted at what could be in store for the iPad. “This thing is an iTurd,” one onlooker sniffed. Shortly after, a disillusioned writer for the popular Silicon Alley Insider website posted a story calling the iPad “a big yawn.”

But such responses are by far the minority. Already, the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco has had to turn away buyers eager for an iPad of their own. The earliest any model will be available is March. Even then, that version will only be able to access the Internet via a wi-fi wireless signal. In the U.S., a version capable of connecting to 3G mobile networks will be ready 30 days after that. Jobs said deals with international phone carriers should be in place by June.

It’s not hard to see why people are excited. As expected, the device is slim, just a half-inch thick and weighing 1.5 pounds, with a multi-touch screen that at 9.7 inches is roughly three times as large as Apple’s wildly popular iPhone. In fact, it looks like a giant iPhone. As Jobs held it up, it had the effect of making him look child-sized. All models of iPad are wi-fi enabled and come with Bluetooth connectivity, speakers and, of all things, a compass. (No camera though. Apple has to save something for the next generation iPad.)

Users of the device will be able to surf the web, watch movies, check e-mail, buy songs through the built-in iTunes music store, and select from the tens of thousands of apps independent developers have already created for the iPhone. At the same time Apple has introduced iBooks, an online bookstore that has already signed up five big publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins. The New York Times was also on hand to show off its iPad app. Expect many more publishers to follow suit as the newspaper and book industries pray the iPad will finally offer them a way to make money off their online content.

The iPad’s ultimate success will depend a lot on whether people are willing to pay the prices Apple is asking. Leading up to the announcement many assumed the company would price the device at around US$1,000. Instead, the base model, with 16-gigabytes of memory, will sell for US$499, or about $530 at today’s exchange rate, and up to US$699 ($743) for the 64GB model. (To get a version that can access 3G mobile networks in the U.S. will cost you another US$130.)

In the U.S. Apple has negotiated two pricing packages for 3G service with AT&T, with unlimited data downloading available for US$29 a month. The chances of Canadians seeing such a generous and inexpensive data plan are next to none, so you can expect something of a backlash here when Apple eventually does announce a plan with a Canadian carrier.

Whatever happens, Jobs must be satisfied with the way the big unveil went. Apple has spent roughly a decade toiling away on this project in various forms. His refusal to even acknowledge its existence only made us want to know about it even more. Now that the advanced marketing campaign is over, it’s time to see whether the hype will pay off.


 
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Steve Jobs delivers the iPad

  1. i think it is a bit big and i profer the iphone and i don't know if you can make phone calls on a ipad and i hope they make them 850 mhz 900mhz 2100 mhz for europe and south pacific

  2. The wireless service for the ipad will be via AT&T's 3G network–already overtaxed by iphones. So connectivity of our iphones will go down? If lots of people are complaining about the bandwidth problem already, this can only make it worse, seems to me.

  3. Given that this device is targeted to those who currently keep a netbook by the living room couch or kitchen counter, the lack of a good 3G data plan in Canada won't hurt it one bit — most people have wifi in their homes. The lack of a camera, or USB port, or Flash, could be dealbreakers though. My mom would be an ideal iPad customer — except she uses skype three times a week to talk to her grandsons — oops, no camera. She plugs printers and cameras into her netbook — no USB on the iPad. She uses websites that stream flash video, like Hulu (when she is in the US) — sorry, no flash support. The cheap plastic netbooks that Jobs was busy insulting can do all of those things, however inelegantly, while the iPad can do none of them. Nice Kindle killer, nice foothold but I would certainly wait until the iPad 2.0.

    • Agreed. It doens't seem to have very many useful features that aren't already available in other technologies. I can see it being useful for watching movies but, unless it has a stand, then you have to hold it or prop it up the entire time. A laptop can sit open at the right angle. I don't really get it?

      • Apple has the stand problem covered. Just check out the optional equipment.

    • Right on everything up to the Kindle Killer. No one that just wants an ereader for books is going to spend 500 USD when the Killer is half that. Especially when the books at Amazon will be cheaper. I'm supremely disappointed in the iPad as the owner of an iPhone, a PC, a macbook, an apple tv, iPod. This product has a lot of sizzle, no steak.

  4. No multi-tasking. No camera. Pitiful storage amounts for the cost. And did I mention no multi-tasking? Want to listen to music while you work your home finance spreadsheet? Want to be able to get your IMs while web-browsing? Tough luck. People will accept these kind of limitations in a device where it's simply not big enough to realistically do two things at once, but this thing doesn't have that.

    So anybody who buys this over a standard netbook is essentially trading most of the real functionality for a multi-touch screen and tilt sensing. And I'm sorry, the thing's too damn big for people to really be using the tilt sensing with any comfort.

    iPad, meet the Apple Lisa.. I expect you'll be spending a lot of time together.

  5. The iPad has the potential to be a big success. Those people who complain that it isn't as good as their iPhone, or their MacBook, or their netbook, or their whatever, might be missing the point. Just like the iPod became a huge success because it somehow appealed to millions of people who previously paid no attention the many MP3 players already available in the market, the iPad may appeal to millions of people who don't already own a smartphone or a Kindle or a netbook. The lack of a front facing camera does seem a puzzling omission – without the camera, it can't be used for video messaging (although I assume it can still be used for text messaging via Skype, Yahoo Messenger, etc.) No doubt, a camera will be included in a later version.

  6. I think they've botched this one. If it was presented as a replacement for the laptop with reduced size and improved GUI it would be a winner. But so far it's been presented as an oversized iPod with some additional computing/browsing capability. Not good. The name iPad already sends the wrong message.

  7. I have a web site where I give investment advise on penny stocks and stocks under five dollars. I have many years of experience with these type of stocks. I can not believe that apple computers shares traded at just 5 dollars in 1998 the stock trades at 350 dollars a share today. their are many stocks trading today that once traded under 5 dollars. this is just one of many examples.

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