"iPad is it!" New device wows many, bores some (News Feature)
By Andy Goldberg Jan 28, 2010, 4:32 GMT
San Francisco - Apple wowed many in the tech world Wednesday with the launch of a new tablet computer - the iPad - that could pioneer a new style of media use in the digital age.
But some critics said Apple's new device fell short of expectations.
Hopes for the device had been high. In the words of The Wall Street Journal: 'The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.'
Amazingly, Apple's iconic chief executive Steve Jobs managed to blast those expectations out of the water by showing a device that users cannot but crave.
Like the company's other revolutionary breakthrough, the iPhone, the iPad is trying to define a new category of digital devices by giving customers something they didn't even know they needed before Apple came up with the idea.
Analysts had predicted that the device could cost as little as 600 dollars and sell 5 million units in its first year. But Apple outdid that with units starting at just 499 dollars, and a device that could appeal across a huge audience.
'It's a mainstream device, not a geek gadget,' Apple enthusiast Mark Jaro said as he watched a live stream of the invitation-only event.
Some of the enthusiasm that rocketed over the blogosphere can be put down to Jobs' legendary presentation skills, known in tech circles as the RDF, or reality distortion field.
But even the most pragmatic of tech users had to be watering, if not outright drooling, over some of the iPad's capabilities.
Functioning something like an iPhone on steroids, the iPad is designed to perfectly execute the everyday tasks that have become so common in the digital age. Small enough to be handled comfortably on the couch or in the car, yet with a large multi-touch screen that offers many advantages over the mouse and keyboard - the iPad could define a new category of casual computing.
With his characteristic lack of modesty, calling it a 'magical and revolutionary device,' Jobs said: 'iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.'
Email, web browsing and media tasks like music playing, photo sharing or video viewing appeared to work beautifully with hand gestures on the screen and the large on-screen keyboard. Utilizing the built-in accelerometer turned the iPad into an impressive game machine.
The New York Times crowed about its own iPad edition of the paper, developed in just three weeks, that it called 'the next generation of digital journalism.'
Like other news sites, the NYT is hoping that the quality of the iPad experience will enable it to charge readers who have largely accessed content for free on the plain old internet. Book publishers are also excited about the iPad, which will feature a store called iBooks that is like iTunes for books.
Apple had some pleasant surprises about the price of the 1- centimetre thin device.
The base version, which features 16 GB of flash memory and a wi-fi capability, will cost 499 dollars. The top of the line device will offer 3G and wi-fi connections and 64 GB of flash for 829 dollars.
Consumers have been able to buy tablet computers for years, but largely ignored the often clunky devices that never really distinguished themselves from cheaper laptops. With its innovative design and fairly low price, Apple has the best chance of creating a new market, experts say.
But there were critics, too.
'Yawn,' one poster wrote on the tech site Gizmodo. 'I was hoping for something revolutionary.'
'Will people buy it in droves? Is there actually room for a device between smartphones and laptops?' wondered Ryan Block, who covered the unveiling for popular gadget blog gdgt.com. 'That I don't know - I've always been skeptical there's room for a third category in there. But if there is a contender for this space, the iPad is it.'