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The iPad Question

Alex Christie

6 April 2010

iPad QuestionThis past weekend Apple’s latest creation, the “magical and revolutionary” iPad was released in the United States. The initial sales numbers seem promising- more than 300,000 have been sold on the first day, along with a million applications and 250,000 e-books. The iPad appears to be a hit and has been receiving largely positive reviews- tech blogs around the Internet give the device two thumbs up, complimenting the smooth UI, the 10 hour long battery life, and the innovative applications.

There’s no question about it- the iPad is a solid tablet that makes computing simpler and easier. Unfortunately, success is by no means guaranteed for Apple’s latest must-have gizmo. The iPad, for all its wonderful features, has a number of annoying limitations. The tablet doesn’t have an internal CD/DVD drive, any USB slots, a camera, and a number of other things that comparable devices, such as netbooks, all have. Additionally, the iPad comes with a steep price tag- the base model is $499 and and upgrades can increase the cost up to $829. While the device hasn’t been released in the UK yet, analysts expect similar price points. Additionally, 3G users will have to pay a monthly subscription for speedy Internet.

Apple positioned the iPad to appeal to iPhone and iPod Touch users- the tablet has the same interface and is powered by a similar App Store. Unfortunately, the iPad App economy is unlikely to enjoy the same success. The iPad’s Apps are significantly more expensive, ranging from $5 to $10, meaning that buyers are likely to use far more scrutiny when making purchases. As a standalone product, the iPad is little more than a fancy notepad/calculator; in order to enoy a magical experience, you’ll need to load it up with Apps and purchase content. Newspaper and journal publishers who look at the iPad as their respective industries’ saving grace need to realize that they’ll face issues they do in the online space: user’s reluctance to pay for content.

Another strong selling point for the iPad is its iBook application which directly attacks the Amazon Kindle, the current market leader in the e-book reader industry. It appears that the device bests the Kindle, providing a colorful and more interactive presentation of books. However, as a provocative piece by James McQuivey points out, the Kindle brand is likely to benefit from the iPad, capitalizing on the opportunity to provide content on a new device. It’s also very likely that Amazon will cook up a sexier, more innovative Kindle e-reader which can match or even surpass the iPad.

It’ll be extremely interesting to see how the iPad fares after the initial hype wears off. While the 300,000+ sales statistic sounds impressive, it incorporates pre-orders, meaning all the media hype created in the US when the device was first announced has been used up. Though the iPad will be a must-have for the Apple fans in the UK, especially after such a glowing review by celebrity Stephen Fry, it’s unclear what the future holds. Will the iPad be the next best thing or a over-hyped flop?

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