The iPad is here, but will Jobs’ new form factor break the mould?

28 Jan 2010

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So, like Moses, Apple CEO Steve Jobs came down from the mountain with tablets carrying information. But can he lead his flock to the promised land? He last night revealed three models of the new iPad tablet computer – a 16GB model, a 32GB model and a US$829 64GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G optional.

“The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet it had some commandments written on it,” quipped a Wall Street Journal editorial, which Jobs was happy to emblazon on a giant screen as he took to the stage.

To the traditional ooh’s and ahh’s which are now as customary as Jobs’ black turtleneck sweater, jeans and sneakers, Jobs – who looks like he’s made a full recovery from his brush with pancreatic cancer – held aloft a device he described in his own words as “an exploded iPhone.”

From the outset, you knew that this half-inch thick device with its 9.7-inch screen was special – and not just because of the hype about the device that has dominated the web for the past two weeks – but because he got to the point. It runs on an iPhone OS but you can do some special things like watch YouTube videos in hi-def and do a lot more with your photographs. Indeed, your investment thus far in apps will be protected because the iPad comes with an emulator that doubles the size of your existing apps, whether it’s the Facebook app or a racing car game.

The device – which weighs just 1.5 pounds – promises to fundamentally alter entertainment and media insofar as our enjoyment of reading, books, gaming, watching movies and consuming news.

The device comes with a responsive high-resolution Multi-Touch display that lets users physically interact with applications and content.

iPad includes 12 new innovative apps designed especially for the iPad, and will run almost all of the more than 140,000 apps in the App Store, including apps already purchased for your iPhone or iPod touch. iPad will be available in late March starting at US$499 (€355).

Apple also announced the new iBooks app for iPad, which includes Apple’s new iBookstore, the best way to browse, buy and read books on a mobile device. The iBookstore will feature books from major and independent publishers.

Apple also introduced a new version of iWork for iPad, the first desktop-class productivity suite designed specifically for Multi-Touch. With Pages, Keynote and Numbers you can create beautifully formatted documents, stunning presentations with animations and transitions, and spread sheets with charts, functions and formulas. The three apps will be available separately through the App Store for US$9.99 each.

“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Jobs.

“iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”

iPad features Multi-Touch applications

iPad features 12 next-generation Multi-Touch applications. Every app works in both portrait and landscape, automatically animating between views as the user rotates iPad in any direction.

The precise Multi-Touch interface makes surfing the web on iPad an entirely new experience, dramatically more interactive and intimate than on a computer. Reading and sending email is fun and easy on iPad’s large screen and almost full-size “soft” keyboard. Import photos from a Mac, PC or digital camera, see them organised as albums, and enjoy and share them using iPad’s elegant slideshows.

Users can watch movies, TV shows and YouTube, all in HD, or flip through pages of an e-book downloaded from iBookstore while listening to a music collection.

iPad syncs with iTunes just like the iPhone and iPod touch, using the standard Apple 30-pin to USB cable, so you can sync all of your contacts, photos, music, movies, TV shows, applications and more from your Mac or PC. All the apps and content you download on iPad from the App Store, iTunes Store and iBookstore will be automatically synced to your iTunes library the next time you connect with your computer.

iPad’s 9.7-inch, LED-backlit display features IPS technology to deliver crisp, clear images and consistent colour with an ultra-wide 178-degree viewing angle. The highly precise, capacitive Multi-Touch display is amazingly accurate and responsive, whether scrolling web pages or playing games.

The intelligent soft keyboard pioneered on iPhone takes advantage of iPad’s larger display to offer an almost full-size soft keyboard. iPad also connects to the new iPad Keyboard Dock with a full-size traditional keyboard.

iPad is powered by A4, Apple’s next-generation system-on-a-chip. Designed by Apple, the new A4 chip provides exceptional processor and graphics performance along with long battery life of up to 10 hours.

Apple’s advanced chemistry and Adaptive Charging technology deliver up to 1,000 charge cycles without a significant decrease in battery capacity over a typical five-year lifespan.

“The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet
it had some commandments written on it,”
– Wall Street Journal editorial

iPad comes in two versions: one with Wi-Fi and one with both Wi-Fi and 3G. iPad includes the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi, and the 3G versions support speeds up to 7.2 Mbps on HSDPA networks. Apple and AT&T announced 3G pre-paid data plans for iPad with easy, on-device activation and management.

Each each iPad enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminium and comes standard with energy-efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. iPad contains no brominated flame retardants and is completely PVC-free.

Apple last night also released a new Software Development Kit (SDK) for iPad, so developers can create new applications designed to take advantage of iPad’s capabilities. The SDK includes a simulator that lets developers test and debug their iPad apps on a Mac, and also lets developers create Universal Applications that run on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Prices for the Apple iPad

The iPad will be available in late March worldwide for a suggested retail price of US$499 (€355) for the 16GB model, US$599 (€426) for the 32GB model, $699 (€497) for the 64GB model.

The Wi-Fi + 3G models of iPad will be available in April in the US and selected countries for a suggested retail price of US$629 (€447) for the 16GB model, $729 (€518) for the 32GB model and $829 (589) for the 64GB model.

The iPad promises to beckon a new era of versatility in personal computing and entertainment. Like the mobile industry did with the iPhone, it is only a matter of time before other manufacturers release a competing device.

This time the landscape has changed. Where once it might have been Nokia or Research In Motion, Jobs has rattled a newly evolved hornets’ nest that includes traditional computer rivals Microsoft, HP and Dell but now includes Google, which is intent on releasing a Chrome-powered netbook in the near future.

Let battle be joined.

By John Kennedy

Photos: The new Apple iPad, which has been unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs

 

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com