Shall we talk about the elephant in the room? Everyone else has! Really, who would say no to another article on the web about… that’s right, the Apple iPad. So… without trying to sound too much like every other Gollum-esque Mac fan-boy out there (“My preciousss…”), I’m going to try and give you guys a brief, impartial overview of the much discussed Apple iPad.
Now then. As you will no doubt know, unless you have of-late been residing on one of the lesser known moons in the backwaters of the Galaxy, Apple last week officially released the iPad. I say ‘officially’, as there has, of course, been much speculation over the last year (or 6) about the possibility of an upcoming ‘Tablet PC‘ release from the ‘Cupertino Massif’. Rumours were occasionally actually quite accurate, for example, Apple Insider published a prediction/rumour last July that it would be a 10”ish device, not entirely unlike a large iPod Touch with optional 3G capability. Which pretty much hit the nail on the head – but whether or not that was just an incredibly lucky guess is not for us to know, I’m afraid. In any case, these masses of rumours served at least one purpose – to fan the flames of anticipation and whet the appetite of every technology lover worth his/her salt.
So when Steve Jobs (a.k.a the dark lord Sauron!) finally did unveil the holy tablet (no pun intended, honest), there was of course a mixed reaction. Very seldom does such a hyped-up product deliver exactly what everyone wanted/expected. There have been a remarkable number of negative thoughts towards the device so far, but I fear that the purveyors of said thoughts are, sadly, being both a little myopic and possibly under-informed. Now let’s get down to the facts – the iPad itself is a 9.56”x7.47” device, with a 9.7”(diagonal) display (those bezels are for holding onto, people – no complaints please!) at an impressively high resolution for such a device – 1024×768. It is based on an Apple-manufactured CPU, the 1GHz A4 SoC, and has inbuilt 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi capability as standard – with an optional premium for an un-contracted, unlocked 3G capability. It will come in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants at surprisingly competitive prices (for Apple!) around March (WiFi only) or April (3G-enabled), in the US and Australia. No word so far about release dates in the UK or the rest of Europe, but we’ll keep you posted as we find out more.
The problem I find with most people’s (generally) negative critical reception of the device so far, is that they seem to be projecting it’s possible marketability and use incorrectly. It seems to be being compared to netbooks in terms of size and functionality, and to power-users in terms of market. I’ve heard a parroted criticism that the A4 processor isn’t as powerful as a comparable Snapdragon 1.5GHz processor – unfair, not least because said processor hasn’t even been released yet! I’d say that this device is extremely desirable. It comes in a very nice form factor, with a custom designed, in-house built processor and a revised and updated version of the iPhone OS (currently version 3.2, but there is a predicted update to 4.0 on the horizon). These components were literally made to work together. Currently available footage shows a very smooth, seamless user experience heavily oriented towards web browsing and internet-enabled activities such as email, YouTube and Google Maps access, with a well thought out eReader solution and accompanying section of the iTunes store for books, built in.
Personally, I could certainly find a place for one of these in my gadget lineup. If I do end up buying one, I’d say I’d probably use it as a casual internet browsing device – in fact, possibly even my primary internet browsing device! It could be used around the house, on the couch, even when you’re out and about if you’re at a WiFi-enabled coffee shop with the WiFi version, or literally anywhere – like a train or bus – with the 3G version. The iPad also utilises a mobile version of iLife – basically a suite of content creation apps not unlike MS Word, Excel etc, and has a utility for interactive slideshow presentation through an adapter & the infamous 30-pin port. Who knows, maybe I’ll even turn to the ‘dark side’ and start reading books on this thing! I think it’s fair to say, I’m definitely excited.
All things considered, this looks to be a very promising device. Maybe not the most logical purchase if you already own an iPod touch, but at $499 (~£312 assuming direct exchange, at time of writing) it is certainly a relatively affordable and desirable device, aimed at home and on-the-go users. If there is one thing you take from this article (other than that I do love Apple, despite the sarcasm!), let it be this: don’t judge it until you’ve used it. Have any thoughts, positive, negative or otherwise, on the iPad? Let us know in the comments below.
UPDATE: The iPad has now been confirmed as shipping in the UK at the same dates as in the US. Pricing still to be determined, we’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE 2: So the wondrous and ever-so-helpful and not-at-all-frustrating people over at Apple have now moved the release date of the iPad in the UK back at least a month. The official announcement of release dates, pricing etc is to be announced on the 10th of May – mark your calendars, folks! We’ll let you know more as soon as we can. *sigh*