In case you've been trapped under a bus for the last 30 hours, Apple announced their "latest creation" in San Francisco yesterday, a "magical and revolutionary device." It's the tablet computer that the world has been expecting from Apple for nearly 10 years now, the product of Steve Jobs' dreams.
It's called the iPad, and we think it's pretty rad for what it is. It's too underpowered to be a real laptop like the MacBook (and lacks the keyboard to even be a netbook), and it's just too big to be a handheld, on-the-go device like an iPod Touch. But we tend to agree with Steve Jobs and the rest of the Cupertino Crew that it fills a significant gap between those two devices because it can handle any kind of media (pretty much) and make that media accessible anywhere. We break it down after the jump:Music: via iTunes, Pandora, and a slew of other Apps. Apple has had this on lockdown for almost a decade now, and with the purchase of LaLa, they're indicating a shift toward a streaming-based service--something that requires a perpetual web connection. The iPad does that.
Video: via iTunes, YouTube, and a slew of other Apps. The lack of Adobe Flash video on this and other iPhone OS-based products is a major, major flaw, however. It prevents users from viewing about 70 percent of all video content on the web, according to Adobe. Still, the videos that the iPad can will be available everywhere, on a comfy 9.7-inch screen.
Print: via iBooks and a slew of publication-specific apps. iBooks is a new service announced at yesterday's event that will--you guessed it--sell books. The price point ain't great, but five major book publishers are on board, so it's likely to be a well-stocked store. Widely heard word on the street is that several newspaper and magazine publishers (old media) plan to jump on the bandwagon with iPad-ready versions of their publications. It may not be the industry's saving grace, but it will certainly help to pull them out of the internet-age doldrums. Time will tell how this stacks up as an eReader (eye-strain and glare can be a real bitch on LCD screens), and if it will take the wind out of the Kindle's sails (though it does improve on many complaints Kindle users had, like a color display, bigger screen, and a better user interface).
Gaming: via bazillions of Apps. No, Crysis won't run on this thing, but most people don't care about system-hogging first person shooters. Simple games that thrived on the iPhone will continue to thrive here, and the larger screen opens up possibilities for even better games. The no-Flash thing is a major flaw here as well, though; 75 percent of web-based games run on it, but again, there are literally thousands of cheap, simple game apps available--and they don't even require a web connection.
Some tech nerds are flat-out underwhelmed by this gadget. They're the guys and girls that make full use of their laptops, for both work and play. But they're not the target audience here, and the iPad probably isn't a good product for them. It has no native keyboard (a dock-keyboard peripheral costs $70), it can only run one program at a time (it can't multitask, as the industry lingo goes), and it's a "closed" product (it only runs apps from the iTunes App Store).
But think of all the people that buy a MacBook because they just want a sexy (and reliable and easy to use) Apple product. Those folks don't even come close to reaching that machine's capabilities. They email, surf the web, do their social networking mumbos jumbos, watch a few videos and listen to some music. You can do that with a netbook (most of it, anyway) yet they happily drop $1,000 on an Apple product. The iPad is designed for those people. It's more portable, even sleeker, and costs half as much for the cheapest model. All their old iPhone apps run on this thing too.
It's a flawed product for sure--no camera, no Flash as we mentioned, no multitasking--but it looks like the best tablet anyone has made to date (sorry, JooJoo--though your price tag seems reasonable now). iPad version two will be a monster, and at the very least, the iPad will encourage competition not only for better tablets, but since it's an "unlocked" device, better 3G infrastructure and lower 3G prices. Then we all win, Apple lovers and haters alike.