Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad: First Impressions

ipad_photo My initial impressions:

I think Apple clearly has a winner here.  From some early reviews I've read, the speed on this thing really screams and is significantly faster than the iPhone 3GS.  I’m very impressed by how much Apple has been able to pack into this device and by what they have chosen to leave out.  The pricing of both the iPad and data services are below many commentator’s expectations, making me continued to be impressed with Apple’s marketing acumen.  Steve Jobs is positioning this as a device to replace both eReaders and netbooks.  While he didn’t intend it, I think it also has the potential to replace an iPhone for many people too.  Read on for more of my thoughts.

First the specs (via Gadget Lab):

  • The tablet is 0.5 inches thick and weighs 1.5 pounds.
  • It has a 9.7-inch display with 1024 x 768-pixel resolution. It also has capacitive multitouch that’s similar to the iPhone.
  • The device runs Apple’s own processor, a 1-GHz Apple A4 chip — possibly the fruits of of Apple’s $278 million acquisition of PA semiconductor in 2008.
  • The iPad will have 16-GB to 64-GB flash storage.
  • It includes speaker, microphone and accelerometer so you can use the device in both landscape and portrait mode. There’s also a compass.
  • It has up to 10 hours of battery life and one month of standby time.
  • It offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • It will include optional 3G access from AT&T. For $30 a month, users can get unlimited data. For iPhone users already crying out in pain about their bondage to the AT&T network, here’s something to sweeten the deal: No contracts are required for the data plan. iPad users can cancel their data connectivity at any time.
  • Unlimited data will cost $30 or users can pay $15 for up to 250 MB of data.
  • The iPad will cost $500 for 16 GB, $600 for 32 GB and $700 for a 64-GB model. But if you want 3G connectivity, add another $130 to the price tag.


Is the iPad a Kindle Killer?

In a word, no.  Or at least not entirely.  The Kindle will still have some strong selling points among bibliophiles (its primary market).  eInk is nicer than computer screens for reading for extended periods of time.  Battery life measured in days rather than hours.  Cheaper price point.  Smaller size.  Lighter weight.  Lack of distraction.  All of these features will appeal to hard core readers.  However, among more casual readers, Apple has just given strong reason not to buy a Kindle.  Amazon has already responded by announcing an app store for the Kindle and changing the revenue split it offers to independent authors.  Expect more innovation coming soon including cheaper prices.  I would love to see Amazon offer a "Pocket Kindle" similar in size to the Sony Pocket Reader.  (With a 5-inch rather than 6-inch screen.)  This would further distinguish the Kindle in size from the iPad.  I for one also appreciate the text-to-speech capabilities of the Kindle -- something there was no indication the iPad could do with books.  Also, with the ability to sync books to an iPad or iPhone via the Kindle App, one could think of the Kindle and iPad as compliments rather than substitutes.

But with a price point starting at $499 and the ability to purchase iWorks, I do think the iPad has killed off Plastic Logic's Que.  Relative to the iPad, the Que is significantly more pricey and much more limited.  I think most business folks the Que is trying to target will have a tough time justifying the extra expense just for eInk.

I think the iPad also destroyed the Kindle DX at the DX’s current price point.  (Expect to see a $100 reduction in the DX ASAP.)  The DX has never been quite as popular as the Kindle 2, to begin with and for an extra $10, people can now get an iPad.  No comparison.

Is the iPad a Netbook Killer?

In a word, mostly.  With a price point starting at $499, the iPad represents a serious disruptive technology invading the netbook marketplace.  A couple things keep me from fully saying yes.

1) No Flash Support.  While Apple has not commented about this, a webpage Jobs loaded on the iPad during his presentation showed a “missing plug-in” box.  I suspect this may have been intentional to gauge commentator’s reactions to flash not working on the iPad.  I find this disappointing.  For the iPad to fully replace netbooks, I would like to see it be able to watch streaming videos from websites such as Hulu and Netflix.

2) No Multitasking.  Again, this is something that Apple has not officially commented on, but it appears that the iPad runs only one app at a time – just like the iPhone.  This means you can’t as easily swap between working in multiple applications (such as two Word documents at once) or run Pandora or Rhapsody in the background while working on a document.  (Of course, iTunes should still work – it’s one of the few apps Apple lets run in the background.)  As a blogger, a lack of multitouch would make it onerous to cut and past hyperlinks into blog posts.

Of course by the time the iPad goes on sale, both of these issues may be addressed.  If they are, I suspect my netbook won’t see the light of day very often.

Is the iPad an iPhone Killer?

In a word, partially.  As someone who uses his iPhone least frequently as a phone and more as a mobile computing platform, I could see the iPad and a cheap cell phone meeting most of my needs.  (Having said that, I don’t plan on ditching my iPhone anytime soon.)  I know a lot of people who wish they could purchase a data-only cellular plan for their iPod Touch.  With the introduction of this option on the iPad, I think a lot of people will begin to wonder why other devices can’t offer the same no-contract option?  I am thrilled to see the $30 per month data plan option on the iPad and expect other wireless providers to eventually be forced to compete.  That’s great news for consumers.  Of course, the great thing about the iPhone is that it’s always in my pocket (plus it has a GPS and built-in camera).  That’s something the iPad won’t be able to claim.

In A Nutshell

The iPad looks to be a significant and important new technology that has the potential to replace eReaders, netbooks, and iPhones to varying degrees.  It is a game changer not only on the technology front, but also on the business models behnind it.  The iPad beats out much of the potential competition on both price and features.  Why do I have the looming feeling that my bank account is about to go down?

1 comment:

thinking said...

Apple does it again! I can't wait to try one out at the Apple store!

You see that Apple also left room for future features, including a front facing cam, like on their laptops/desktops, as well as a video cam once 4G networks are in place to allow for video conferencing.

I agree that it's netbooks that should feel most threatened. This will replace netbooks for many people.

As for the iPhone, I don't think this will replace the iPhone for the vast majority of buyers.

One, people who buy the iPad are likely to already have an iPhone and fallen in love with it, and still want Apple for their phone.

Two, I will take my iPhone places where I wouldn't necessarily take an iPad, and would still value the web browser and other apps. Consider at the grocery store, mall, restaurants, work, etc...

Bottom line: Apple is changing the world like few other companies.