Earlier today Steve Jobs unveiled the long-rumored tablet computer — iPad. Yes, you read that right. iPad. Close to iPod, but one vowel off. I could care less for the name, but I thought iPod was pretty ridiculous back in 2001. Obviously I changed my tune on that, and I am sure the iPad moniker will grow on me.
Aside from the name, though, the device seems to be quite the spectacular technological specimen, especially for the price it will sell for when it is released in late March/early April. The iPad is essentially a giant iPod touch in form factor, but the software has been tweaked to better accommodate the larger 9.7-inch screen. It weighs in at 1.5 pounds and is 0.5 inches thin. I think it is quite attractive aesthetically (from what I have seen on pictures/video).
Let’s get into what we now know about the iPad. The display is a 9.7-inches, with 1024 x 768 resolution at 132 pixels per inch, and has In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology. IPS is cool because it prevents color distortion when the display is viewed from an angle. Apple’s current iMac line utilizes IPS and I have seen it cropping up in quite a few HDTVs lately (I know Vizio’s XVT line uses it). That makes for one sharp display.
It will comes in storage capacities of 16/32/64 GB at $499/$599/$699, respectively for Wi-Fi only models and $629/$729/$829 for Wi-Fi + 3G models, respectively. Apple also announced a breakthrough deal in the US for 3G coverage. Users can pre-pay for 250 MB bandwidth $15/month and Unlimited¹ bandwidth will run $30/month. However, these plans are contract free, and can be activated/deactivated from iPad itself. So if a user is going on a trip, they can activate before they leave and deactivate when the get home. Nice deal. Also, the device itself is unlocked, so any GSM micro-SIM can be placed in it, presumably. The big catch for the US? The deal is with AT&T.
Networking is accomplished via 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate, and optionally, 3G networking.
One of the most interesting tidbits is the brain of the iPad. A while back, Apple acquired a chip design firm called PA Semi-Conductor. It appears that acquisition has borne fruit (forgive the pun) as Apple is using custom silicon for iPad’s processor. The new processor is called the Apple A4, and has a clock-speed of 1 GHz. This is exciting, and I hope Apple uses custom silicon in the next iPhone model. (Could they possibly make their own processors for notebooks, too?)
On the software side of things, it appears iPad is running a build of the unreleased iPhone OS 3.2. I was surprised by this, as I thought the tablet would run its own branch of OS X. The advantage of the iPhone core is that iPad can run all existing iPhone and iPod touch applications, either in regular size, or it can scale them up to full screen. Developers will be able to make apps for just the iPad, or ones that run on all Apple touchscreen devices.
Input is much like the iPhone. A software keyboard pops up in portrait or landscape view, and you type on it much like you would a notebook keyboard. Well, at least that’s how Steve Jobs did it. There are a couple more input options, but I’ll discuss those under accessories. Navigation is done with your fingers. It is a touchscreen, after all.
From what was demoed of included apps, I was quite pleased with the Calendar and Mail app. The Calendar app looks so much better than even iCal on Mac OS X. And Mail just looks so much more functionally laid out than Mail on iPhone or even Mac OS X. I also enjoyed the look of the iPod app, as it looks like a next-generation iTunes on the Mac.
The iPad also fills the role of an eBook reader, and introduces a new app called iBooks and the iBookstore, powered by the iTunes Store, naturally. Of course, I recently became a Kindle owner. Great timing, huh? I can already tell that the browsing and buying experience will be better with iPad, but I can attest that the Kindle is easy on the eyes. That said, I think the whirlwind force of Apple with its iTunes Store behemoth will slaughter the Kindle.
Apple also announced iWork for iPad. Each app — Pages, Keynote, and Numbers — has been reworked for use on the touchscreen. They will sell separately for $10 each on the App Store. I don’t believe they will be compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch.
To see this stuff in action, go watch Apple’s iPad video.
Apple announced a few accessories to complement the iPad. First, a Dock — think of it as a charging station. There is also a Keyboard Dock — it looks like Apple’s compact aluminum keyboard attached to the iPad Dock. There’s a cover that doubles as a stand, and a cable that allows iPad to be hooked up to a monitor. There are also camera connectors, one for connecting your camera via USB to dump photos, or an SD card reader.
The current Apple Wireless Keyboard can also be connected via bluetooth to iPad for text input.
Reflecting upon my prediction post a couple days ago, I was wrong on nearly everything. iLife and iWork didn’t see updates for the Mac (iWork did get an update, just not how I expected, and it isn’t released yet). There wasn’t an iTunes bump. iPhone OS 3.2 wasn’t released (and likely won’t be until the iPad is out in late March/early April). Chiefly, Apple is still hugging AT&T. I was convinced they were losing exclusivity. I owe you all a crow eating.
Beyond all that, I think the iPad is a very awesome device, just from what I’ve read/seen pictures of. I can definitely see where it fits in the computing lifestyle for someone like my wife. She uses an iMac, and has an iPod touch. She used to have an iBook, and sometimes she misses it. I can see where she would want an iPad for that medium-sized portable computer.
On the other hand, for someone like me, who uses an MacBook Pro and has an iPhone, well, I have a portable computer already. Two if you count the iPhone. I’m just not sure how iPad would fit for me. Don’t worry, that wouldn’t keep me from getting one. I drank the kool-aid long ago. The message is just a little less clear for folks who use a notebook computer as their main computer.
I suppose my thoughts are that the iPad is the start of something new. Perhaps, given time, it will grow into a device that could replace the notebook computer altogether. Perhaps. Only time will tell.
¹Carriers usually impose a 5 GB cap on these so-called “unlimited” data plans.