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“It” is finally here. Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad tablet device at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to a packed house amidst thunderous applause.
After months of speculation, which reached a fevered pitch over the last two weeks, it was absolutely imperative that Apple‘s iPad live up to the hype. And it does. Jobs characterized the iPad as a third device category between a notebook and a smart phone; and given the features and the form factor that is a credible claim.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise was the very affordable price tag: iPad list pricing begins at $499 for the basic 16GB model and goes up to $829 for the most expensive 64GB model which includes Wi-Fi and 3G. While many industry watchers expected the iPad to sell for less than $1,000 (US), it’s safe to say that no one expected it to break the $500 barrier. This aggressive tag should enable the iPad to effectively compete and competitively priced compared to the smaller and wildly popular Netbooks, which is no doubt exactly what Steve Jobs intended.
The iPad incorporates all of the rumored features and elements that consumers have come to expect and demand from Apple and then some. It incorporates superior graphics, an elegant case, a slick user interface and a multi-touch virtual keyboard. In another nod to usability, the iPad can be angled or tilted in any direction while still allowing the user to view the screen. And at just half an inch thick and weighing only 1 ½ lbs. the iPad sports a sylph-like silhouette that would be the envy of every supermodel, not to mention potentially millions of consumers who will love the portability of the slim, lightweight form factor.
The iPad, which comes equipped with a 1GHz Apple A4 chip, is also available in a variety of configurations to fit various budgets. Customers can purchase the iPad with 16-, 32-, or 64 GB solid state hard drives. And in what will surely be a boon to consumer and corporate road warriors, the iPad has a battery life of 10 hours for mainstream applications. And the iPad can sit on Standby for a month without requiring a charge, according to Jobs. All models come equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
The iPad is also fully interoperable with Apple’s other top selling products the iPhone, iPod and iTunes. Interoperability is a necessary and crucial component to the iPad’s future success. It also has the speed and power to run the latest games, TV and movies; an E-book reader and content from multiple external sources.
Broad Appeal
The iPad seemingly has something for everyone: enough speed and power to attract the gaming crowd; E-book reader capabilities; Google Maps; the ability to watch TV, movies and video – YouTube can be viewed in high definition (HD). It also features broad application support which is the life blood and a necessary element for the success of any hardware device. It already supports popular applications such as Calendaring, Google Maps, Facebook and even Major League Baseball. The iPad will also appeal to scrapbooking and photography buffs. It has a photo scrubber bar on the bottom of the screen that has multiple settings, that lets the user flip through photo albums, run slideshows and listen to music. And while it may not be the [Amazon] Kindle Killer as some have dubbed it, at the very least the iPad will give the Kindle some tough competition. Apple has already lined up five publishing powerhouses including: Harper Collins, Macmillan, Simon and Shuster, Hatchett House and Penguin Books. More such partnerships will likely be announced in the coming months.
The iPad has two missions to fulfill. The first is that it must equal or exceed the very high bar that Apple has set for itself. This is no mean feat. Apple aficionados and critics alike have been spoiled by the dizzying array of devices Apple has released over the past several years. These range from new innovative Mac Books like the MacBook Air to the market changing iPhone and iPod and the ubiquitous iTunes for music downloads.
Apple now finds itself in the enviable or unenviable position of having to top itself in the quest to deliver “the next big thing” and secure its spot on the top of the hardware mountain.
Secondarily, the iPad is Apple’s attempt to fell multiple competitors — from Amazon to Google to the Net book vendors — with a single arrow.
So how does the iPad stack up? From a feature/function standpoint it lives up to the hype and it exceeds expectations from a pricing standpoint. Steve Jobs may very well have introduced a third device category. The iPad appeals to a broad user constituency that includes gamers, E-book readers, music and photography lovers, Web surfers and mobile and remote users (and probably some corporate knowledge workers as well) as well as casual consumers who just want to get the latest and greatest consumer offering that won’t break their budgets.
Undoubtedly, there will be some users who will simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I already have a notebook or Net book, why do I need the iPad?” And that’s fine.
And while it may not kill Amazon’s Kindle or the rival Net books it will force those competitors to respond with more advanced features and aggressive price points in the near and intermediate term. There is no doubt that other vendors fear Apple as witnessed by the many new tablet devices that were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. Everyone wanted to beat Apple’s iPad to market.
No, the iPad is not Moses coming down from the mountain with tablets containing The 10 Commandments, but then again Moses didn’t have such a large audience, the benefit of sending his message out via the Web or the advantage of Apple’s marketing machine.
When all is said and done, the sales to end users – consumer and corporate alike – will be the final arbiters of the iPad’s success. The first sales figures, including pre-orders should be available within the next few months. Meanwhile, Apple has done its part by imbuing the iPad with the features, functions and broad application and industry support that are necessary to make it a success. Barring any unforeseen or show stopping bugs, the iPad looks like a winner.

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