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Apple's Plunge Into the Open Waters of Tablets

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jan 28, 2010 5:00 AM PT

So. After much fanfare, speculation, leaks and industry prognostications forecasting everything from the demise of Amazon to the wholesale revitalization of the publishing industry, Apple's tablet-style personal computer has finally been unveiled.

Apple's Plunge Into the Open Waters of Tablets

The introduction of the iPad has managed to prove some of the more persistent rumors of the past several months correct, though there have been a few surprises, starting with its name, its multiple configurations, and their accompanying price points.

What's in a Name? What's in a Price?

"The iPad. How could they -- it's horrible," Rob Walch, host of Today in iPhone told MacNewsWorld. "It's so un-Jobsian."

However, the price points, which are based on memory size and Internet accessibility options (WiFi is standard; 3G costs more), were better than even Walch's more optimistic expectations. "Basically what Apple has done is offer an iPad for most budgets." Apple traditionally has aimed its products at the upper end of consumers' pocket books, which is why so many in the industry have doubted Apple would ever offer a netbook. A starting price in the range of US$1,000 perhaps would have been less surprising.

Granted, the $499 to $829 price range is not netbook territory, Walch said, but it is closer than anyone had ever expected Apple to hit.

"It is a beautiful device, which is not surprising, as this is Apple," said Greg Sterling, principal with Sterling Market Intelligence. "The price point, though, has been set so that the cheapest iPad is only slightly more than the most expensive iPod or iTouch." The iPad, he told MacNewsWorld, could easily wind up cannibalizing Apple's best-selling product line.

The openness of the iPad surprised Boston University College of Communication Professor Hyun-Yeul Lee. Though users may opt to pay a monthly fee for 3G wireless data access from AT&T, that service does not lock users into a contract.

"Apple has taken one step forward in terms of taking account of [the] competition and their practices and in how Apple can compete," she told MacNewsWorld. "These tablets are unlocked; we can all credit the Google phone, which seems to be the closest in memory."

She's not yet convinced about the device's ecology, she continued. "How does this device fit into the rest of the device world? Was [Steve Jobs'] pitch for a keyboard accessory reminding consumers that perhaps a laptop is useful, and he wants consumers to carve out a space for the iPad, considering what the economy is like these days?"

Industry Changer?

For Al DiGuido, CEO of Zeta Interactive, the iPad's ecology is clear: The device, with its accompanying digital content agreements, will give consumers the push they need to accelerate the shift from print and newsstand media consumption to digital downloads.

The iPad's launch "marks the beginning of the end of in-person print newsstands," he told MacNewsWorld. "In the future, online newsstands -- similar to what iTunes has become for the digital music industry -- will become the norm in the media industry, and in-person newsstands will eventually become interactive posts where consumers can purchase downloads and buy their desired content digitally."

Other industries can expect to be impacted by this device as well. Douglas Elwood, vice president and medical advisor for Widmeyer Communications, points to healthcare as an example.

"The advancements described today bring multiple forms of media, gaming and control to individuals in a way not before seen," he told MacNewsWorld. "The iPhone currently offers a number of healthcare apps; however, the iPad will allow these apps to be enhanced and will, more importantly, greatly increase the scope [of] new ones for use by physicians, students and of course patients."

Adding videos and text in one streamlined fashion could change the way physicians and patients interact, he said. "Additionally, it opens up the world of telemedicine and remote healthcare even more. Ultimately, the iPad will dramatically improve patient well-being, allowing them unprecedented access in a format that is entirely new," Elwood said.

Less Than Enthusiastic

The iPad was not, however, greeted with unanimous acclaim. "The iPad seems to be simply a larger version of the iPhone or iPod touch," said Doug Atkinson, VP of marketing and business development at enTourage Systems, which has developed a competing product. "With the iPad, Apple is not creating nor spearheading a new category of consumer electronics; they are just building upon an already existing category. Apple has a very loyal following, but it will be up to the consumers to evaluate if they feel there is added value in the iPad," he told MacNewsWorld.

At least one of those, photographer Anthony Citrano, has already rendered his verdict.

"I'm disappointed. The bezel is way too large, there was no indication of multitasking or ability to make phone calls, no Flash ... it's nothing but a big iPod touch and a big letdown," he told MacNewsWorld. "Maybe I'll change my mind when I see and use one, but I am not seeing this as 'magical' right now."

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