In another of its legendary product-launch events, Apple unveiled its long-rumored tablet computer Wednesday. If the legend plays out the way the launches of the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone did, the iPad tablet will reshape the landscape of its competitors.
That landscape could include the emerging categories of netbooks, e-readers and other tablets, all of which have seen a flurry of product releases in the last few months -- at least some of which were in anticipation of Wednesday's event.
'The Internet In Your Hands'
The presentation at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco followed the form of previous Apple launches, with Apple CEO Steve Jobs appearing in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans.
He said Apple wanted to kick off the new year with a "truly magical and revolutionary product" to go alongside laptops and smartphones, and he described the iPad as "a third category of device." Jobs told the packed auditorium that surfing the web on the iPad is like "holding the Internet in your hands."
At half an inch thick and 1.5 pounds, the iPad builds on the success of the iPod touch and the iPhone, and runs an updated version of the iPhone operating system. The device features a 9.7-inch LCD touchscreen and is optimized for movies, games, books, web browsing, and other media.
There's a built-in calendar and address book, access to iTunes, a built-in e-mail client, and an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. There is also a new iPad Keyboard Dock, so the user can employ a regular keyboard.
The device is based on a custom Apple-designed one-GHz chip, called the A4, and features 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, an accelerometer, a speaker and mike, and a 10-hour battery.
The pricing of the device has been the subject of much discussion, with many expecting a price in the $800-$1,000 area. The iPad's price will start at $499 for the 16GB version, $599 for the 32GB, and $699 for the 64GB. Versions with 3G will be available in a few weeks, for $130 more.
'Raising the Bar'
AT&T will be the official carrier partner for the 3G models, but the device will be unlocked. iPhone and iPod apps can run without modification, either within an on-screen box or full screen. An updated software development kit for the creation of third-party applications is also available.
As per the rumors, Apple has been busy forming alliances with content providers and the iPad will feature iBooks, a new e-reading app. Books can include color, audio or video, and there will be an iBook Store. Five major publishers have signed on to stock the iBook Store -- HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin, Hachette and Simon & Schuster.
In addition to iBooks, there are another 11 new multi-touch apps, each of which automatically orients itself into portrait or landscape mode. One of the new apps is a new version of iWork, Apple's productivity suite.
"Apple keeps raising the bar," said Laura DiDio, a research fellow at Information Technology Intelligence Corp. She noted that many people expected the device to be called the iSlate, "but that name was trademarked."
The device's silhouette is so thin, she quipped, "that any fashion model would be envious." DiDio described the graphics as "top-notch, very sharp and precise," and noted the boost that interoperability with the iPhone, iPod and iTunes gives the new family member.
DiDio said the pricing "is a little lower than what I had expected," adding that Jobs has apparently "learned from the iPhone's launch," where an initial high price was reduced a few months later, angering many early adopters. Apple ended up offering rebates to the first buyers. Even with a lower starting level, she expects prices to drop in a few months.
Posted: 2010-03-18 @ 12:31pm PT
I will be interested to see the price point of other tablet computers coming soon to the market. Apple can push these out as a loss leader and make money back on the apps. I predict iPad prices will be lower than competitors' products.