Apple iPad: First Thoughts

When Moses presented the original Tablet to the waiting world it really only had 10 features; and if we are honest about it, the Tablet was little more than a list manager — more about what not to do than a platform to open our eyes and minds to possibilities.

The Tablets Moses Jobs brought down from the mountain this week are full of possibilities. I am not ready to convert yet to the new faith of the iPad, but I am willing to give it some serious consideration.

As expected Apple has finally released its take on the Tablet PC, and unsurprisingly it is unlike all it’s predecessors. If you missed the news, Steve Jobs showcased the iPad to the Apple faithful on January 27 – a 10″ touchscreen slate that sits in the area between the iPod and notebook.

What I found most interesting is Jobs never really compared it to the existing tablet computers, which focus on the business market. Instead he took dead aim at netbooks and e-readers. In fact, Microsoft was never really mentioned or even referred to.

There was much speculation about what the iPad would look like, work like or who the market would be. The iPad is, at least out of the gate, a home-based device. There are business apps, but it is focused on web browsing, video watching and reading.

Weighing in at a pound and a half, it is roughly the size of a sheet of paper. Screen resolution is the standard 1024 by 768, and there is a touch overlay — what Apple calls a “multitouch” screen — that is pressure and gesture sensitive. Using the multitouch interface should be an intuitive exercise. It certainly has appeal; in fact, I suspect for many, it will be love at first touch.

The preferred method of home-based Web browsing

Jobs, in his introduction, stated that it is an intimate device, more capable than an iPod touch or iPhone and more personal than a notebook. The first thing he demonstrated was browsing the Web. I can see the iPad being the preferred method of home-based Web browsing.

For email, an onscreen keyboard pops up; it looks very good but it will be one of the key acceptance factors for many people, if they don’t like the keyboard or if the functionality becomes very limited. Unlike Windows-based tablets there was no mention of stylus or handwriting recognition, so input will be mostly limited to that onscreen keyboard.

The iPad is more closely related to the iPhone or iPod Touch than it is to the Macbook notebook computers. All of the applications built for the iPhone will run on the iPad so out of the gate there are over 100,000 applications and utilities ready to use. Developers will also release optimized applications taking advantage of the larger screen.

A Kindle killer?

Apple has really perfected the App Store, a delivery method for distributing applications to the iPhone. For the most part these applications sell for $.99 to $5.00. The same delivery system will power the iPad, and they are adding a similar bookstore to turn your iPad into an e-book reader. It could be a Kindle Killer!

As the product evolves I am most excited about where the iPad will fit into the education world. With its built-in communications tools along with the potential to store all textbooks and also work as a notebook, it may revolutionize education — at least in areas that can afford it.

The heart of the iPad is a unique processor designed by Apple; it is a 1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed, high-performance, low power system-on-a-chip . The good news is it boasts impressive battery life — up to 10 hours is the claim. This battery life is essential for the iPad to fit into our lives in all the ways it is designed to.

The workplace is not left out of the launch since Apple has ported iWork with its word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications over to the iPad. Although the demonstration seemed to show that the iPad was going to deliver some pretty impressive functionality in the productivity area, I am still a bit skeptical about the iPad being able to replace my notebook, at least not yet. What is startling is Apple is selling these applications for $9.99 each.

The iPad is available in a 3G version, meaning you can use it on the cellular network for data and web browsing. In the USA there is a sweet deal in place for some really appealing data plans for the iPad, but it remains to be seen if Canadians are going to have a similar opportunity. I suspect that the 3G version is only going to appeal to the business community so it may be a moot point if the functionality doesn’t meet the users expectations. For the rest of the world, the built in WiFi will undoubtedly suffice.

Ah, now for the biggest of all the questions: how much is the iPad going to cost? It is not nearly as expensive as many pundits predicted: $499 for the 16 GB version, $599 for the 32GB and $699 for the 64 GB version, with 3G models adding a premium of $129.

Availability should be by April for the WiFi version and another few months for the 3G.

It may not change the world as much as the original Tablet did, but the iPad promises to be a lot more fun.


The Tweet smell of success

Steve DobbsSteve Dotto is Canada’s most respected geek. For over 15 years, as host and executive producer of Dotto Tech, a nationally syndicated TV show, Steve has entertained and educated millions of Canadians on all aspects of technology. Steve has a passion for understanding the social impact of technology. His DVD Cybersafe with Steve Dotto , teaches parents and caregivers about the opportunities, dangers and challenges of social networking.