The Steve Jobs iPad Tablet media show today at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco was always going to have a hard time living up to the ridiculous pre-launch hype that's been circulating around the web.
Steve's presentation was more moderated than at previous product launches as he tried to manage expectations positioning the device as a tweener product - "more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone.''
By the time we emerged from the iPad presentation and the demo area where, under the watchful eyes of the Apple execs and security staff we were allowed to play briefly with the device and the few announced accessories, it was obvious that the world was very much the same as when we went in.
This was always going to be Apple's toughest audience. The crowd reaction was generally positive if rather muted. Of course, the group was largely press who have a tendency to be ultra critical and even cynical given the amount of marketing and PR hype to which they are subjected. People also react to what they know and understand and have more difficulty seeing the longer-term vision and opportunity.
A big challenge facing Apple's iPad is that unlike phones and laptops this is a nice to have, not an essential to have product. But it's a very slick device and a lot people will want one even if they don't absolutely need it. It's a product that will evolve and build over time rather than being an instant success.
The light and thin iPad has a bright and crisp resolution, the performance is fast. Web sites (well those without flash) look great. Unmodified apps scale up to full screen and generally are acceptable while the Apps written for the enhanced iPhone operating system raise the bar significantly.
A typical reaction of it's just a big iPod Touch is understandable as that's what it looks like, but that does not start to do justice to the device and the engineering effort that went into the product and supporting eco-system. Customers understandably may see this as a bigger iPod touch but its no trivial matter to take a multi-touch captivate screen to 9.7 inches.
The "magic" in Apple iPad is just how seamlessly it appears to work. It's going to be a while before Apple's competitors can match the functionality in a similar form factor, which could give Apple an 18-24 month lead.
There are some notably omissions - if the devices is positioned as a great web browsing devices, the lack of flash support is a problem - especially with video streaming fans. . While Apple may be moving to HTML5, Adobe's Flash is going to be around for a long time. Mulit-tasking would have been nice.
There is no camera - the device seems a natural for video chat - but then again we don't have iChat on the iPhone. However the camera is an essential tool to bring together the physical and digital worlds. Augmented reality and digital over lays can greatly enhance a users experience. Given Apple has pushed video cameras in the desktops, laptops and in the iPhone (but not iTouch) the lack of this feature is really surprising. Maybe it's just as well Apple is positioning the product as environmentally friendly and recyclable as I have a suspicion that, as with the iPhone, I could be upgrading each year.
Given I carry around an iPhone all the time, having a tethering option for the iPad or Laptop would be welcome rather than having to sign-up for another data plan.
The virtual keyboard is thankfully enhanced by physical keyboard options - either dockable or via Bluetooth. However, the iPad does not support Apple's Bluetooth mice so extended activity within iWork may be problematic. While it was good to see the iWork applications, the target audience release of iPad iLife applications would have been more appropriate - but expect them to appear relatively soon after launch.
Apple has added the iBook store to its iTune and Apps stores but other than announcing support for the ePub format it made no reference to enhancing the SDK with tools that could make it easy for publishers to easily create dynamic multimedia content. While the iPad offers great potential for book, newspaper and magazine publishers there will have to be significant iPad sales before publishers invest considerable resources to create content that takes full advantage of the device.
Newspapers and magazine are obvious candidates for the iPad but we'll have wait and see if publishers will develop their own apps and go direct or look at platform players such as Skiff, Zinio,Texterity and others to act as intermediaries. For customers who just want to read trade books a dedicated e-reader may be a better option than the extremely bright LCD iPad screen. Reference books will benefit from enhanced multimedia and social networking but it remains unclear just how much of that functionality is currently offered within the SDK.
The opportunity for publishers to connect directly with their customers is extremely appealing. The analytics that will be built into the SDK will provide valuable customer engagement information and in application ad servicing will provide additional revenue streams over and above paid content models.
This is a product that is likely to grow on you and it has enormous long-term potential. Its immediate strengths are in entertainment - games, movies and music. The opportunity for content publishers is significant but needs a lot more work. While I have already signed up to be notified of when I can purchase an iPad, the absence of a camera and video chat prevents me from granting the device the "magical" status Apple has already bestowed on it. Check one out when you can.
Apple's iPad mobile device is 0.5 inches thick (or thin) with a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 display. Storage options of 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB are offered. The device is powered by Apple's custom A4 1 GHz "Apple A4". Pricing starts at $499, $599, and $699 for the varying capacity Wi-Fi models without 3G, and $629, $729, and $829 with 3G. Wi-Fi (802.11n) only models are scheduled to ship in 60 days with 3G-capable model shipping in 90 days, pending FCC clearance. The US 3G data plans will be offered by AT&T at $14.99 for 250 MB and $29.99 per month for unlimited usage as well as free access to AT&T hot spots. No long-term contracts are required and the products, which use GSM micros SIMS, will be unlocked. Plans for non-US users should be in place around June / July.
iPads feature an accelerometer, compass, speakers, a microphone, and 30-pin dock connector features. The iPad offers a claimed 10 hours of battery life for viewing video and 1 month of standby battery life.