Apple’s iPad is iCandy, that’s for sure. But based on the demonstration I saw today — from the Internet and not live — I was largely underwhelmed with the exception of one key area: price.
Pricing is impressive
The iPad looks like a giant iPhone or, more precisely, a giant iPod touch, a device I don’t think is generally better because it is bigger. In my view, the 3.5-inch iPhone screen is already ideal to use as a complementary computer while you watch TV in the living room, as I often do. Will you need one that is three times bigger? I don’t think so.
Do I want one that is three times bigger? Probably.
The real news with the iPad is Apple’s pricing and network connection strategy. Chief showman Steve Jobs said Apple wanted to be aggressive, and it is. The iPad will start at $499 for a 16gb model that works over Wi-Fi only. If you want to use it over AT&T’s 3G network, add $130 to that cost. On the higher end, a 64gb model (Wi-Fi only) sells for $699 — again, add $130 for a 3G network connection.
At those prices, with the capabilities Apple has clearly demonstrated in recent years, the iPad will be a huge hit.
I would love to use the iPad to create a sports bar of sorts in my house. With the fine MLB At Bat app, which is constantly improved upon each season, I can envision using the iPad to watch one game while another plays on the big screen hanging on the wall.
The iPad's virtual keyboard
Also, Phil Schiller’s iWork demonstration clearly made the iPad look like a more robust product than an iPod touch on steroids. It should do a nice job of creating more users of iWork, an area I’m sure Apple would like to see move beyond the Mac enthusiast category. As Jason Chen from Gizmodo observed during his live blog of the iPad event: “I suppose an iWork-like app was all that was missing from the iPhone in order to allow businesspeople to ‘work from the road’ and leave their computers at home.”
For road warriors — or just road trips – the data plans are very alluring. They start at $15 a month from AT&T without a contract. According to Jobs, you can cancel at anytime. Unlimited data plans will start at $30 a month. Now, I honestly don’t know how much data one will use each month, nor how you quantify how much content constitutes 250 mb of data for that $14.99 monthly price, but it clearly makes the iPad an attractive mobile device.
Of course, it immediately adds a new level of stress to AT&T’s already overloaded 3G network. It was surprising that AT&T remains the only carrier in the U.S. for the device. It had been widely rumored that Verizon would also carry the iPad but that wasn’t announced today.
What the iPad will cost
Other things that caught me eye:
– 10 hours of battery life. Nice.
– New York Times demo that showed embedded video in a news story. Cool, but hardly a publishing industry savior.
– Will run all existing iPhone apps but developers were clearly encouraged to start working on new versions exclusive to the iPad.
– Thin, at 0.5 inches. Light at 1.5 pounds. Screen size seems adequate, at 9.7 inches.
All that aside, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that iPad is not much more than an overgrown iPhone. The technology is cool — we expected that — but I don’t think the iLust will match the iPhone’s original frenzy when the iPad goes on sale in March.
But that unexpectedly low price won’t hurt.