We can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Apple has finally gone ahead and fessed up: The Apple tablet is real and it's coming to stores in two months. So you can say goodbye to the rampant speculation, the wild rumors and the fake photos.
On the other hand, now the debate really begins. Is this what people wanted? What they need?
And why call it the iPad? Let's forget for the moment that people are likening the name to that of a feminine hygiene product. Since 2002, Fujitsu has been selling a handheld device called the iPAD, used in the U.S. by retail store staff to check prices and inventory. Fujitsu applied for a trademark in the U.S. years ago, though it hasn't received one. It looks like Apple will have to fork over a few dollars to make this problem go away. What exactly was wrong with iSlate?
Beyond the name, there's plenty to debate, from the features (or lack of, in some cases) to Apple's continued relationship with AT&T.
One of the primary early gripes is the lack of multitasking functionality. One app at a time, please. While iPhone users have long complained about this same limitation -- imposed by Apple, since jailbroken iPhones multitask just fine -- when you're shelling out a lot of money for a device intended to be, as CEO Steve Jobs put it, "way better than a laptop, way better then a phone," I think it's safe to say that a user expects to be able to listen to music while reading their e-books.
After giving the iPad an initial once-over, tech blog Engadget noted that "All this power and very little you can do with it at once. ... It's a real setback for this device." The Inquirer was a tad harsher: "The lack of any multitasking removes any notion that this is a serious tool for productivity and is a major let-down. Surely in this day and age people will want to annotate an e-mail whilst viewing a document. This can't be too much to ask for a $499 (and up) device with a 1GHz processor in 2010."
Another complaint is the lack of Flash support. Jobs raved yesterday about what a joy browsing the Web is with the iPad, and I'll agree that it looks great on that beautiful screen. But, um, isn't there a lot of Flash on the Web? What about video streaming services like Hulu? I have to think that consumers aren't going to be happy with this flaw.
There's also no camera and no built-in USB port or SD card slot. Yes, Apple will sell adaptors, but it still feels like a bad move.
Not everyone is complaining, though. The Telegraph's technology editor said that "the iPad whizzes along, opening applications, re-sizing web pages, and zooming in and out of maps almost instantaneously. " And, she added, "the new touch-optimized iWork suite is beautifully realized, making it quick and easy -- and, dare I say, fun -- to piece together a spreadsheet or presentation. It also helps to elevate the iPad to more than just a plaything."
At the New Republic, Nicholas Carr was almost getting weepy (though he was realistic about the iPad's limitations). "With the iPad, Apple is hoping to bridge all the niches," said Carr. "It wants to deliver the killer device for the cloud era, a machine that will define computing's new age in the way that the Windows PC defined the old age. The iPad is, as Jobs said today, ‘something in the middle,' a multipurpose gadget aimed at the sweet spot between the tiny smartphone and the traditional laptop. If it succeeds, we'll all be using iPads to play iTunes, read iBooks, watch iShows, and engage in iChats. It will be an iWorld."
iWorld -- that's catchy. Though I prefer iPlanet.
And then there's Apple's deal with beleaguered wireless carrier AT&T. On Apple's quarterly earnings call Tuesday, Apple COO Tim Cook jumped to AT&T's defense, which was a good indication that it was going with AT&T for its tablet. "AT&T is a great partner," he said. "I think it is important to remember that they have more mobile broadband usage than any other carrier in the world. In the vast majority of locations, we think that iPhone customers are having a great experience from the research that we have done."
A lot of iPhone customers would take issue with that statement. And now they'll be expected to pay AT&T $29.99 a month for unlimited coverage or $14.99 for 250 MB? Hmm.And, I should add, a friend of mine expressed a different kind of concern about the iPad. "Have you seen a broken iPhone?" she asked. "It's ugly. I'd be scared to death of dropping one of these."