New iPad Has 'Coolness' Factor
This week, the new Apple tablet PC, called the iPad, was announced to great fanfare.
The iPad will sell for between $499 and $849. It will sport a 9.7-inch LED-backlit multi-touch color screen and will weigh just 1.5 pounds in a body that is only a half-inch thick.
The iPad will let you surf the Web, check e-mail, watch videos, play music and display photos. It will allow you to download and read books from the new iBook Apple store. The iPad will also let you run most of the "apps" from the Apple App store, which now offers more than 150,000 applications.
The idea of a touch PC without a keyboard is not new. In fact, such a PC was an ongoing dream of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He announced his Tablet PC back in 2000 at the now-defunct Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.
There was even a Tablet PC edition of Windows XP. I still have the drawing of my face that was done on a Tablet PC at Bill Gate's Comdex party that year. In speaking to Gates that year, he was certain that his new Tablet PC would be one of the biggest winners that year. That, however, was not to be. Microsoft's Tablet PC was before its time. It simply didn't catch on.
Now, however, everything is different. The wild popularity of the iPhone and its many imitators has made people very comfortable with a touch screen. Add that to the popularity of Apple's "apps" (applications that allow you to do everything from matching colors to identifying songs to playing games, and the iPad is a more viable device than the Tablet PC ever was.
Yet, just how popular the iPad will be remains to be seen. While the iPad, starting at $499, is the cheapest Apple computer that you can buy, a simple netbook is more powerful than the iPad - and it's cheaper. Although it is smaller, the iPhone itself can perform most of the iPad functions in addition to being a phone.
The iPad, though, has a real coolness factor, and if Apple uses the same methodology it did with the iPhone, the iPad may grow into a really fully functioning device.
The original iPhone had quite a bit of functionality missing. Yet Apple relied on the coolness factor and the "apps" to sell the phone.
Then, each year, it added more functionality. Right now, the iPad doesn't have a camera or a webcam, but these, as well as other functions, could always be added in future editions.
Apple products haven't always been successful.
Some of you may remember the Apple Newton PDA, which was a really big flop. More recently, Apple has come out with the Apple TV, which is a device lacking in functionality and appeal and which has received a mediocre reception.
The original iPod was a big chunky device that could be used only on an Apple computer. It wasn't widely popular, yet Apple, in subsequent editions, made it PC compatible, improved its iTunes music store and improved the quality and design of the iPod.
It has sold more than 250 million iPods. It morphed the iPod into the most popular music player of all time. There is a possibility that Apple can do the same with the iPad.
I don't see the iPad being initially as popular as the iPhone, but it will certainly have a good following and Apple can then morph it into the device that everyone needs to own.
One unexpected thing that the iPad might do is to promote the touch-screen devices from other manufacturers that are currently on the market. Windows 7 is fully touch-compatible, and devices such as the Hewlett Packard TouchSmart PC are pretty enticing.
Any manufacturer that can keep the price of a touch-screen computer down and can market it properly will probably have a winner on its hands.
By the way, at the Consumer Electronic Show this year in Las Vegas (the trade show that picked up the overflow from Comdex), Microsoft demonstrated a touch PC that it called the Slate PC. It will be manufactured by HP, Pegatron and Archos.
The iPad goes on sale in April. Although I am not terribly excited about it, there is no doubt that I will have to get one - if only to have it to sit on the shelf next to my original iPod.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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