Apple’s iPAD Announcement
There has been no end to the conversation surrounding the Apple iPAD, officially announced on January 28. For months, even years, before Steve Jobs walked out on the stage last Wednesday at the Yerba Buena Center and let the perverbial cat out of the bag, there had been rumors of an Apple tablet, a device that would fit between an iPhone and a Mac PC. That device is called an iPad and it will ship in 60 days (or so Apple promises).
For all the conjecture about what this device could do, Wednesday’s announcement was a let down, a revelation, and a relief. A relief, because there was now something substantial to talk about; a revelation for some because it could lead the way for a new class of computing device; and a let down, because the iPAD couldn’t live up to every ones expectations and some vendors were left off the parts list. The reaction by press, bloggers, and anyone who cares has been all over the spectrum. Some people consider it deeply flawed; some consider it the next personal computing revolution.
Clearly this is only the 1.0 version, there’s plenty of room for growth and adaption. A lot of the nit picking revolves around limitation of the iPhone operating system v3.2 such as no multitasking and other limitations such as no Adobe Flash support. Other hardware limitation come from Apple’s unique aesthetic (no USB ports, dongles for flash card reader) and possibly limitations from Apple’s first home-grown processor (no full 1080p HD support). Some of the hardware limitations were obviously cost driven (the 1024x768 display resolution and no camera). Still, people who have touched the iPad have been impressed by the overall design, even if it doesn’t stray far from Apple’s design language.
The IPS screen with its color quality, LED back light, and aspect ratio indicate that the iPad will be good for web browsing and digital magazines. It will also make a killer digital picture frame when it’s not on the go. For video – it will do well with standard definition, but as noted earlier it lacks the 1280 by 720 display required for entry level HD quality. HD movies will either be letterboxed or cropped. In addition, the iPad dock does not support HDMI HD output (unlike the Microsoft Zune HD).
While the tablet is often thought of as a “tweener device,” between a smartphone and a laptop, the tablet could wind up standing apart from both. As a home Internet access device, it is light enough to carry about easily and has the nearly instant-on characteristic of an appliance. The iPad will certainly be embraced by certain verticals such as home automation and home theater controllers.
With the 3G and optional Bluetooth keyboard, it can be sufficient for a road warrior. The access to text books could be a boon to students. The price point is just above netbooks, so it can appeal to many netbook users. While iPad lacks full Mac OSX support, Apple is porting a sub-set of iWork to it that should be sufficient for most people. This product has the best chance to jump-start the tablet market.
But, let us not forget there are significant limitations. The iPad (like its predecessor the iPhone) lacks Adobe Flash support, so some video sites (like Hulu) and web constructions will not play on the iPad; maybe that will change.
Some of the best thinking about the new iPad has come from developers who are beginning to envision extending existing applications and developing new applications.
With the iPad opening the door, there are also going to be a wide range of competitors, with different strengths and weaknesses. Certainly the two leading software contenders to the iPad’s iPhone OS will be Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Win7. Android is making a considerable splash in smartphones and is being extended to include tablets. The Android application store is 2 year behind Apple, but is making quick strides in adding new applications. The Microsoft Windows 7 operating system offers true desktop level support and applications. With Android and Windows 7, multitasking and Flash are supported and there will be many different hardware platforms supported at many different price points.
Now the clock is ticking – Apple announced the iPad would be available in 60 days from the announcement and a few competitors are beginning to come out. Soon, we will be awash in tablets. I am going to following this very closely, partly because my company NVIDIA has a horse in this race (the very capable Tegra 2) and partly because the tablet could be the most innovative computing product since the laptop. The tablet also brings to mind science fiction visions of the future of computing. I will definitely be buying one or two tablets this year to learn how it fits in with my life. It should make for an interesting year. I can hardly wait.