iPad: Wow or Why?

After more than two decades of preparation and months of rumors, Steve Jobs and Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) finally unveiled the tablet, now officially known as the iPad. America hasn’t been this captivated since the balloon boy incident.

Steve Jobs introduced the iPad at a press conference today calling it a “truly magical product.” A short procession of representatives from various industries - Electronic Arts (Stock Quote: ERTS) games and the New York Times (Stock Quote: NYT) – walked on stage and demonstrated the magical device. The iPad is essentially a pocket computer that looks like a bigger iPhone and supports more multimedia.

Perhaps the biggest surprise at the event was the price. Despite expectations that the iPad would sell at close to $1000, the starting price is actually just $499 for the 16GB model, without 3G service. If you want more space, the 32 GB model costs $599 and the 64 GB model costs $699, both without 3G. The same size models with 3G service cost $629, $729 and $829 respectively. Well played, Mr. Jobs, considering that recent polls have shown customers wouldn’t be willing to spend more than $700 on it.

The 3G models will start shipping in 90 days, and those without will ship in 60 days.

The message running through the conference was ambitious to say the least. The iPad is looking to change personal computing as we know it. According to Jobs, the purpose of the iPad is to fill in the gap between a smart phone and a laptop. But do consumers really have a need for another device, or is Jobs just trying to create this need for them?

Many industry experts remain skeptical of the product. Newsweek reports that many at the event thought the iPad was bulkier than expected and poorly designed. They argued that many of the apps don’t work well on the larger screen and the icons are “weirdly spaced-out.” Meanwhile, The Guardian questioned whether and how people are expected to carry this computer around.

Here are the key points you should know about the new device. For a few pictures of the iPad, check here.

PROS:

1. This device is designed to be light year’s faster than iPhones currently on the market, thanks to Apple’s newest processing chip, the A4.

2. The iPad will give the Kindle a run for its money. Apple’s new gadget has its own iBook store, where users can actually flip through books on sale. Unlike with the Kindle, iBooks will support pictures and video. The downside is that most books here will likely cost around $15, a steep increase from Kindle’s $10 books.

3. The iPad is a gamer’s dream. There will be an abundance of new games and the device will also support any games you may have on the iPhone. Best of all, the iPad is offering multiplayer gaming features.

CONS:

1. There is no camera. We really don’t understand how they omitted this, unless they are already planning for upgrades on the second generation model. In any case, that’s one strong point in favor of sticking with your iPhone or MacBook.

2. There is no multitasking on this device. (In other words, you can’t run more than one application at a time.) According to Engadget, “It’s a real disappointment. All this power and very little you can do with it at once.”

3. Apple is still sticking with AT&T for now. This isn’t a complete deal breaker since you can just rely on Wi-Fi instead of signing a contract. But it would have been nice if Steve Jobs could finally have announced a pairing with another provider today. Oh well.

It remains to be seen whether tech consumers will flock to this device. The lower price point well definitely help boost sales, but all this buzz could still end up being for nothing. Check out MainStreet’s coverage of previous Apple flops.

Finally, it’s worth noting that when this article was filed, “iTampon” was among the top trending terms on Twitter. If there are women on Apple’s marketing team, they must have lost that battle, given that for many the term iPad may bring to mind the newest product release from Always, not Apple.

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