The world awaits the iPad: Long lines on Friday (News Feature)
By Andy Goldberg Apr 2, 2010, 23:07 GMT
San Francisco - Customers eager to be among the first people to own an Apple iPad started lining up outside retail stores Friday, a day before the hotly anticipated device was to go on sale in the US.
Just in time for the debut, Apple released a list of iPad-ready sites that are already optimized for use with the new touch-screen tablet computer which Apple and others are touting as a revolutionary device.
Many iPad fans say it could kickstart a major change in digital lifestyles, as well as provide a convenient platform for struggling media companies to charge for their content.
Among the sites set up for for iPad are CNN, New York Times, Time magazine, the White House and People magazine.
Publication of the list appeared designed to counter criticism that the iPad lacks compatibility with the Flash media player, which is used to run most online videos. All the iPad-ready sites run a newer video standard called HTML5 which is compatible with the iPad.
The Wall Street Journal is unveiling a free iPad app, while magazine publishers like Popular Science, GQ and National Geographic are also debuting apps for the new computer format. Other iPad apps that are already available include ones from the BBC, Netflix and Pandora.
But the Apple rival Microsoft said it does not plan to offer iPad- friendly versions of its Office software, in a possible sign that it is developing its own tablet computer offering.
Analysts expect Apple to sell between 200,000 to 300,000 iPads on the debut weekend. Some forecasts predict total sales for 2010 at around 7 million units, driven by early adopters and other users attracted to the device's intuitive touch-screen interface.
The first units, which come only with the ability to connect to the web over wi-fi, cost 499 dollars. iPads capable of using 3G phone networks will be available at the end of April and will cost up to 829 dollars.
Many of the earliest adopters chose to pre-order their iPads to ensure being among the first to get the device.
But hundreds of others took the old-fashioned route of lining up a day early outside retail stores to get their hands on the new digital gizmo. According to the New York Times, the first person in line outside Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was Greg Packer, who also waited in line for the first iPhone in 2007 and the first release of the book Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in 2005.
Other line-waiters includes Lucas Paraskeva, 29, who according to Bloomberg News travelled to New York from Cyprus to get his hands pm the device.
'It will be the gadget of the year' the computer programmer said.
Reviewers were also largely positive about the iPad. Tech guru Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal said 'it has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.'
'It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multi-touch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades,' he wrote.
The New York Times' David Pogue castigated the device's 'horrible' touch-screen keyboard, its incompatibility with Flash videos, and its inability to multi-task. But while he said the device was unsuitable for techies, he recommended it for other people.
'The iPad is so fast and light, the multi-touch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget,' he wrote. 'Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right.'
PC magazine also noted the device's drawbacks, but praised it as a 'gorgeous, slim slate, with a beautiful touch screen' and called the iPad a 'winner that will undoubtedly be a driving force in shaping the emerging tablet landscape.'
'Apple has pretty much nailed it with this first iPad, though there's certainly room for improvement,' wrote Ed Baig in USA Today. 'Nearly three years after making a splash with the iPhone, Apple has delivered another impressive product that largely lives up to the hype.'