In what passes for “historic” here in Silicon Valley, Apple CEO Steve Jobs today unveiled his long-awaited iPad, an iPhone-like touch tablet. You’ve seen the speculation, rumor, hype and baloney. Finally, here are the facts – boiled down to 60 seconds of reading.
The iPad will cost $499, $599, or $699 without 3G, depending on how much storage you choose, or $629, $729 or $829 with 3G capability. It will be available for purchase in 60 days for the non-3G version and 90 days for the 3G version, according to Jobs. You’ll be able to buy it at the Apple store, the Apple web site, or wherever you might buy an iPhone. It will be available internationally in June, according to Jobs.
Jobs rolled out 3G data plans via AT&T $14.99 for 250 MB per month or $29.99 per month for unlimited data. You can activate the wireless data plan without interacting with the carrier. There’s no contract, and you can cancel anytime.
The iPad has a 9.7-inch IPS full capacitive multi-touch screen. It’s a half-inch thin, and weighs a pound and a half. Like the iPhone 3GS, it has both accelerometer and compass.
It’s powered by an Apple-developed 1GHz A4 chip. It will come with 16, 32 or 64 GB of storage. The iPad supports 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth 2.1. It has both speaker and microphone. It has a 30-pin connector. It supports GSM microSIMs.
The battery gives you 10 hours of battery life with more than a month of stand-by time, according to Jobs.
Jobs claims the iPod is highly environmental, devoid of toxic components.
The iPad connects to iTunes like an iPhone does. It also runs nearly all existing iPhone apps. But it will also run iPad-specific apps, which will be flagged as such on the iTunes store.
It also has an on-screen keyboard, which should be more usable because it spans the width of the device.
The iPad has all the expected applications, including e-mail, calendar, address book, Web browser, photo viewer, YouTube client, a maps application and so on. It supports PDF files. Apple claims to have re-written the built-in iPhone applications for the larger iPad display.
Importantly, the iPod supports a special version of iWork, Apple’s office suite, which has been re-designed for the iPad’s touch user interface.
Apple also announced an iPad SDK available today for developers.
The iPad can be used for all the things people use an iPhone for, including games, e-mail, calendar, and so on. It syncs to a PC or Mac via USB, just like an iPhone.
However, a keyboard dock and stand enables the iPad to be used like a netbook or laptop.
Jobs unveiled something called iBooks, and an associated iBook Store, which will offer books from several major publishers.
The New York Times demonstrated eBook-like newspaper reading, but with video replacing static photographs inside the layout.
The event also revealed an application called Brushes, which is a painting application. To use it, you select brushes, then “paint” or sketch with your fingers. The app enables the use of iPad as tool for artists to create images, and also for entertaining children.
Also demonstrated at the event: an online Major League Baseball app (which includes live video of games), suggesting a hybrid usage model between the Web and TV.
McGraw-Hill CEO Terry McGraw implied in a TV interview before the announcement that his company, a major textbook publisher, will offer 95% of its existing eBook titles on the iPad.
Why the iPad is so Important
In a nutshell, the iPad is potentially one of the most important, culture-changing products in history, because it can replace all media. Or, more accurately, it changes how people use all media. One device can replace videogame consoles, TV, radio, DVRs, cable, books, magazines, newspapers and more. It also replaces eBook readers, DVD players, laptops and netbooks.
It’s important to Apple, because it could put the company in a similar position of power and control over the videogame, TV, movie, book, magazine, newspaper industries that it currently has over music sales. And for the same reason: Most active consumers could end up buying their content from or through Apple. Not being on iTunes could be something of a death sentence for content providers, which would put Apple in the driver’s seat.
Love it or hate it, Apple’s iPad is clearly a transformational device. What do you think? Post your comments here.