Will Apple iPad Succeed?

The recent Apple event reveals for the first time Apple’s latest creation – the iPad. The hype that has been churning since 3 years ago has culminated to this point and the results are… well, not as exciting as I had hoped.

But for the millions of Apple fanatics out there, the iPad will be the next best thing since sliced bread.

First, Apple is not marketing the iPad as a netbook, and has openly criticized the format as a cheap device that will eventually fail due to the cheap price. Apple may be right on this one as recent research shows that one in three netbooks will fail, and that’s just the nature of having to keep prices low while trying to cram what is essentially a laptop computer into a small envelope.

The iPad will be running on the iPhone OS, which is hardly surprising and brings the iPad squarely into the iPod Touch and iPhone product lineup. Apple is placing the device as an expanded version of the iPod Touch offering eBook capabilities via the iBook application as well as games developed to run with the bigger screen.

But if it’s eBook that you want, Amazon’s Kindle with superior battery life has a sizable headstart already. Good luck to Apple… getting music listeners to read books!

The interface on the iPad has been made to deliberately resemble the experience of the iPhone, but with all the extra screen space, several interface tweaks have been made, most notably the contextual drop-down menus that makes navigation a breeze. As for the specs:

  • CPU: Apple’s custom 1GHz A4 SOC, manufactured by Samsung.
  • Display: 9.7-inch, 1024 x 786 (132 PPI), LED backlit IPS with capacitive touch and oleophobic coating.
  • Storage: The iPad will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB variations.
  • Wireless: The devices comes standard with 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1. You can also purchase a version which has 3G connectivity (UMTS / HSDPA 850, 1900, 2100MHz and GSM / EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz). Sorry everyone, AT&T only here in the US — and if you’re thinking about using your iPhone SIM, think again. The iPad uses new micro SIMs.
  • Other sensors: The iPad has a digital compass, there’s AGPS on-board in the 3G version, and both versions have an accelerometer and ambient light sensor.
  • Ports / input / output: Headphone jack, 30-pin dock connector, built-in microphone, built-in speaker.
  • Battery life: Apple claims “up to” 10 hours web surfing on WiFi, listening to music, or watching video, and over a month on standby.
  • Dimensions: height: 9.56-inches, width: 7.47-inches, depth: 0.5-inches, weight: 1.5 pounds (1.6 for the 3G model).

The interesting point to note here is the new custom Apple A4 chip, which has been described as blazingly fast by those who’s had time to sit down with an iPad. We’re not sure how much faster this chip is compared to the current leading champion, the 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, but the A4 can power the iPad up to 10 hours continuously, something the Snapdragon will never do due to the power requirements of that processor.

The new 3G version offers data connectivity for the iPad, but it seems that those outside of the U.S won’t be able to fully utilize this feature, which is just as well because the iPad doesn’t really have voice/sms capabilities yet, that remains the sole domain of the iPhone. There is of course NO reason why Apple couldn’t integrate these features in the iPad, but probably they choose to go down this path to artificially differentiate their products.

iPhone OS hackers have already discovered references to webcams, SMS and voice features buried inside the iPad’s operating system, so expect to see the next incarnation of the iPad to have all these. But for now, this is the official stance and those who wants to use the iPad like a phone will need to get an iPhone.

The hardware is impressive and certainly a joy to hold, touch, and feel. It’s described as ‘weighty’ and ‘solid’, spanning nearly 10-inches, rather like holding a stack of A4 papers. It also means that the device is anything BUT portable and you can’t slip it into your pockets, although it will certainly go well into a women’s handbag.

No doubt there will be entire new lineups of fashion accessories designed for men to carry and differentiate their iPad.

The inclusion of iWork for the iPad makes it an interesting productivity tool, but for most of us who do our spreadsheet and slides using Microsoft Word, this will be more of a novelty than anything serious. It is a great strategy to expose the Windows user to the world of Apple productivity applications though, and may even win over a convert or two.

Finally, the product will be available in about 2 to 3 months from now, with the cheapest 16GB version coming in at $499, which is the price point of the iPod Touch 64GB + some extra dollars. Nothing revolutionary, and I definitely don’t expect the iPad to sell as many units as the iPod Touch, which still remains the gadget to beat in terms of functionality, usability and portability.

Commercially, perhaps the iPad will fare slightly better than Apple TV. But I really don’t see it becoming the next iPod or iPhone for Apple’s growing treasure chest.