Most Advanced, Magical, Revolutionary – The iPad Unveiling

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Apple iPad announcement

Here’s how Steve Jobs summed up the new iPad at the Apple launch event jut a couple of days ago:

Our most advanced technology in a magical & revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

It’s going to be lots of fun seeing whether the new device can live up to those lofty words.

On Wednesday Steve and Apple put an end to all the frenzied rumors and speculation, and announced the iPad.  Reactions to the long-awaited and much-anticipated new device have been all over the board.  I’m excited about the iPad.  I want one, and will certainly get one on Day 1, and I’m excited to blog about this new device and especially about the apps that will run on it and the uses we’ll find for it.

Wednesdays launch event was long and full of a lot of information.  Read on for some of my quick thoughts on what we heard …

What Is It?

The iPad is very much like what a lot of people were expecting and predicting.  It’s a device that size-wise and capabilities-wise comes somewhere between an iPhone and a laptop.  It’s not a netbook, because Steve says they’re not much good at anything.  It’s not a tablet in the Windows tablet OS, write on the screen and form factor sort of sense – but it is a tablet / slate sort of device with a brand new form factor thanks to Apple.

iPad Apple A4 chip

I’ll do a separate post with detailed specs, but here are the basics, the first measurements that Steve cared to share:

It’s 0.5-inches thin, weighs just 1.5 pounds. Thinner and lighter than any netbook. 9.7-inch IPS display … iPad is powered by our own custom silicon. Our own chip. It’s called the A4, and it screams.” 1GHz. 16, 32, or 64GB of flash storage. “It’s got the latest in wireless: 802.11n, WiFi, and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.”

It’s got a processor made by Apple themselves that by all accounts, from those who got to briefly play with the iPad, is blazing fast. Storage wise it ranges from 16GB to 64GB.  There will be WiFi only and WiFi plus 3G models.  The latter type costs more (and requires a data plan) and is expected to ship a month later than the WiFi only model.

It’s also supposed to have 10 hours battery life.  If that’s anywhere near accurate for everyday sort of use, that’s pretty darn impressive.

When Can We Get It and What Does It Cost?

60 long days.  That’s the announced timeframe for release of the iPad.  So late March if there are no delays – and again, a month longer for the WiFi plus 3G models.

Pricing starts at $499 for the 16GB WiFi model, which of course was one of the event’s big surprises.  Here’s the pricing table shown at the event:

iPad Pricing Summary

And the data plans are pretty reasonable too …

iPad Data Plans

I think I’m looking at the 32GB WiFi – but I’ll work that out over the next few weeks.

What Can It Do?

For starters, it can run ‘nearly all’ the 140,000 apps currently in the iPhone App Store. And it runs the iPhone OS.  Or as Scott Forstall put it, a lot of folks are already going to know their way around this thing:

iPad launch event

It can run iPhone apps at their normal size or doubled (or is it more like quadrupled?) up in size to run full screen on the iPad.  Game demos looked quite impressive to me, but then again I’m not really a gamer at all – so not a good judge.

An SDK has already been released to developers – so we should see apps designed and built for the iPad soon, probably plenty of them by the time it is released.

It’s a very nice looking ebook reader, and has an ebooks store.  Both the app and the store are called iBooks.  iBooks looks a heck of a lot like the Classics app for the iPhone, and apparently also a lot like the Delicious Library app for the Mac. 

iBooks on the iPad

It is touted as a great medium for consuming newspaper and magazine content – just as expected.  In fact, many seem to think it may help rescue the newspaper and magazine industry. 

I’m looking forward to reading all flavors of content on an iPad.  I have to admit, there are not many newspapers or magazines that I read regularly on the iPhone, and even fewer that I read often in print – so I have high hopes that this will be the device that reunites me with some of my favorite titles.

There was a brief demo of the Brushes app on iPad.  This is an area I am most enthusiastic about.  Artists are already doing some amazing things on the iPhone with Brushes and other apps – I believe we will see an explosion of wonderful art created on the iPad.

It will also run iWork 2010 apps – Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheet work, and Keynote for slideshow style presentations.  These all looked pretty good and will each cost just $9.99.

The built-in Calendar, Mail, and Photos apps also looked stunning – and of course it handles music and video as well. 

How Can We Spend Lots More money After We Buy One?

The iPad already has three stores on it – so we can buy apps in the familiar App Store, music and media at the even more familiar iTunes store, and books (and maybe newspaper and magazine subscriptions?) at the new iBooks Store.

iPad Stores

What’s It Missing / What Did We Not Hear About?

Similar to the iPhone, the list of things that the iPad is missing, especially in the minds of some of the hard-core geeks on the web who are comparing it to netbooks and such, is a very long  one.  You can find plenty of posts round the web covering its flaws and things missing from its hardware spec and similar.  For me, a few of the things that stand out are:

Verizon??? All the announced data plans are via AT&T.  This seems like more than a bit of a shocker and of course we’re all wondering how the already overworked AT&T network is going to handle new iPad traffic, and probably lots of it.

Multi-tasking: From what we saw at the launch event, no sign of multitasking as yet.  I may be way over-optimistic, but I really think this just has to come along soon in an OS update.

Still no Flash – there were even a couple embarrassing looking screens when Steve showed off the New York Times web pages on the iPad – with the all too familiar blue block indicating a Flash element in the page the device could not render.

No handwriting recognition: This one is a little disappointing to me, as it seems such a natural fit for this type of device, and the on-screen keyboard looks like it may be awkward to use.

Will they be hiring two or three more reviewers to help with the apps review process?  Or sticking to just those 40 poor overworked sods who man the iPhone App Store reviews fortress?

Will It Create a ‘Third Category’ of Device?

Here’s a slice of what Steve had to say towards the end of the event, in his summing up section:

Let’s go back to the beginning. Do we have what it takes to establish a 3rd category of products? An awesome product between the laptop and the smartphone. The bar is pretty high.” “We think we’ve got the goods. And because we’ve shipped so many iPhones and iPod touches, there are already over 75 million people who know how to use the iPad.

I guess this is the $64,000 question about the iPad.  Right now, I don’t know how I feel about that one.  I know the iPad cannot replace my MacBook Pro laptop.  I know it can’t replace my iPhone 3GS.  Like many people, I’ve never much thought that I need a third device that slots in between the two. Having said all that, on seeing the iPad I know I want one, and I feel sure it will get a whole lot of use.

I’m not sure exactly where my dividing lines will be between when to use the iPhone, when to use the iPad, and when to use my laptop – but I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

What do you all think?  Where – if at all – will the iPad fit into your usage habits? What do you think on pricing?  Which model are you looking at if you’re considering getting one?

All Images via the excellent:

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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