Like many other technology users, I looked forward to the Apple new product introduction. Usually I don’t get too caught up in all of the hype that accompanies one of these announcements.
I’ve been to enough Apple events to know the company and in particular Steve Jobs has these things down to a science. They maintain secrecy over all details of the event and subtly let out slight details at a rate that ensures the general public is spun up to a frenzy.
This was definitely the case for this event. It was perhaps the worst kept secret in the computer history that Apple would be releasing a tablet device. Despite that knowledge Apple customers and potential customers were glued to their computer screens waiting to learn the details of this new device.
After taking the stage Jobs wasted no time before bringing out the new product for everyone to see. It had been rumored the device would be named the “iPad” and that was accurate. At first glimpse it looks like an iPod Touch with a thyroid problem.
It has the same touch screen technology that the iPod Touch and the iPhone use. From the screen displays it runs a version of the iPhone Operating System with extensions that will utilize the larger screen real estate.
Apple is positioning the iPad to be missing link between the iPhone and the MacBook. It will run over 140,000 applications from the App Store with no modification giving the device an instant library of software on day one.
iPhone apps can run in two different modes. The first will set the application up in a window sized the same as an iPhone or iPod Touch. With a click you can expand the size of the window to four-times nearly filling the iPad’s screen.
The iPad is 9.56 inches high and 7.47 inches wide with a depth of 0.5 inches. It weighs approximately 1.5 pounds making it extremely light weight and portable for taking with you wherever you go. The 9.7 inch (diagonal) LED screen has a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels at
132 pixels per inch.
The form factor was slightly different than I expected. I thought it would have a screen ratio of 16:9 rather than 4:3. While the additional width might be good for some applications, it results in black bars on two of the sides when watching video.
The iPad comes in several configurations to allow the customer to decide which one will meet their needs without overbuying the technology. There are two standard types. One is strictly Wi-Fi enabled allowing network connectivity to any Wi-Fi Hotspot in 802.11a/b/g/n flavors.
The other includes 3G networking in addition to Wi-Fi allowing the user to connect the device to a cellular network if Wi-Fi is unavailable. Apple announced that the 3G model comes unlocked meaning it can be used on any 3G network that utilize specific frequencies. AT&T immediately announced the iPad could be used on their network.
Besides the networking type, customers can also choose the device’s capacity. The iPad will be available in 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of memory. Like the iPhone the iPad includes an accelerometer to sense when the device is rotated or tilted.
The iPad uses a graphical keyboard like the iPhone and can also utilize Bluetooth keyboards such as the Apple Wireless Keyboard. The iPad includes full support for Bluetooth 2.1 which should mean you could use wireless earphones.
The processor in the device is an Apple designed chip called the A4 which is running at 1GHz. The chip was designed to provide good performance while maintaining lower power consumption.
Power conservation was an important design criterion for the iPad allowing it to have up to 10 hours of use or 30 days of stand-by power, impressive considering the device’s minimal footprint.
The iPad is capable of playing music similar to an iPod Touch. It is also able to display High Definition video reproduction in 720p at 30 frames per second.
The device is initially being targeted to the traveler who wants to use multimedia while on the road. Its screen size would be perfect for watching a movie on an airplane or in a hotel room.
Besides audio and video, the device is also great as an electronic book reader. It was immediately clear that Apple was positioning this to compete head-to-head with Amazon and its Kindle product.
Besides the iPad, Apple also announced it would add books to iTunes allowing customers to purchase electronic books and have them downloaded directly to the iPad. Besides text and pictures, the electronic books can also include video and other media.
The demos of the electronic book media reminded me a lot of the newspapers in the Harry Potter movies where pictures move around the page. With networking capabilities there is no reason content could not be updated in real time as news unfolds.
Besides the iPad, Apple also introduced a version of their word processor Pages, presentation software Keynote, and spreadsheet Numbers for the iPad. This brings productivity apps to the mobile space. Perhaps the best news was that each of these applications will be priced at $9.99.
The whole pricing structure for the iPad was very aggressive. A 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi will sell for $499 putting it squarely in the Kindle’s market. Prices for the 32GB and 64GB models were set at $599 and $699 respectively. If you want 3G, it is $130 more. This means the most feature laden iPad will sell for $829; $170 less than the rumored price point.
The Wi-Fi versions of the iPad will begin shipping in late March 2010 while the 3G versions will ship in late April. Overall the iPad looks like an intriguing device that has a lot of potential allowing Apple to position themselves in another mobile market.