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Summary:

I watched, along with my fellow writers and everyone else in the tech community (and beyond) as Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple iPad. And what he revealed was a very beautiful thing, with an aesthetically gorgeous design and a seemingly amazing user interface. But is it […]

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I watched, along with my fellow writers and everyone else in the tech community (and beyond) as Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple iPad. And what he revealed was a very beautiful thing, with an aesthetically gorgeous design and a seemingly amazing user interface. But is it precious?

By that I mean, in the true sense of the term, will the iPad be an intensely attractive thing that is briefly coveted and then forgotten? Right now, the general sense from the tech press is that Jobs has done good, and that very few will be able to avoid picking one of these up when they become available in the next two or three months. But will that enthusiasm transfer to the general public?

I’m not the only one who isn’t so sure about that, judging by Steve Jobs’ performance at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts today. Sure, he showed off the iPad’s capabilities with the showmanship of the veteran salesman that he is, but he also framed the presentation in a way that struck me as odd. It almost seemed more like a stockholder speech than the unveiling of an exciting new device to an eager public.

First, he established where the product was needed. He visually created a new category in which the iPad fit, which is something many bloggers and tech writers had been wondering about. It makes sense to address it once, and after having discussed the success of your existing platforms. The connection is understood, and once you demo the device, people will see why they need or want this device. Problem solved.

But not in the eyes of Jobs, apparently. The end of his presentation today was essentially a drawn-out justification of why Apple’s iPad is, in fact, a viable platform, and not just an ultra-niche device that most consumers could easily do without. “Do we have what it takes to establish a third category of products?” That’s what Steve Jobs asked rhetorically at the close of his presentation, but was it a rhetorical question, or is Apple actually unsure?

Let’s make one thing clear: I want an iPad. I want everyone to want one so that we can use them creatively together. But I also wanted a Sony Reader and a Kindle. I want a chumby. I want all kinds of things that ordinary people would never dream of wanting. The iPad, if I try to look at it dispassionately, is essentially a media player that’s too large to carry around comfortably in your pocket, too small to be preferable for movie viewing to your TV, and could even represent a significant recurring money drain if you get 3G service. It’s an e-reader, yes, but by and large, people aren’t yet really lining up to get at those.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that if anyone can make this kind of product commercially viable, it’s Apple. All I’m saying is that if even Steve Jobs has to seemingly go out of his way to justify its existence, then how can I possibly avoid doing the same?

  1. To a certain extent, Apple have now created a situation where things will sell *because* they are Apple. It’s the label thing that’ll make it successful, even if, after a while, users discover that the iPad isn’t up to much. Now, I doubt that’ll happen – people will make it work. Again, because it’s Apple. People will want to be seen with one. I was in Starbucks earlier today, with 3 people on MBPs. I’m not even certain they were doing anything useful there; they just wanted to *feel part of it*.

    And that’s what they’ll get with the iPad – just feeling part of it.

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    1. But that definitely is not a sustainable market strategy..

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  2. no multitasking…no flash=fail

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    1. no front OR rear facing camera = fail

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    2. flash is old news. html5.

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    3. pay attention to the accessory announcements in the next 30-45 days — it always amazes me how short-sighted people are.

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    4. If it fails due to the lack of multitasking and flash the way the iPhone failed due to the same… I guess Apple will learn to live with it.

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    5. multitasking, not an issue….it will be jailbroken in a few weeks and we’ll probably be able to manipulate elections with it!

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  3. Nice article. Everyone wants something when its new. The anxious will purchase, and either be pleased or dissatisfied. The wary will wait for reviews. And then some might not even give it a look. Its not like this hasn’t been done before.

    @Shabazinator on twitter

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  4. I really, REALLY wanted an iPod Touch and an iPhone. I have both now, love them to bits. Never had a MacBook until recently but now I think it’s the bees knees. BUT… I just don’t NEED an oversized iPhone/iTouch or an even smaller notebook. Who does? Unless it is for some obscene purpose, like bricking it into your lavatory wall, it is a useless plaything because whatever you’re using it for: there’s something either more powerful, larger or something even more mobile available. Best scenario: use it as your car-PC or something.

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  5. The reason Steve Jobs spoke as he did was for “journalists” like you. I have been looking for a viable table for a while (5, or 6 months) then i heard Apple was coming with one. Darn, i have an iPhone, a bigger iPhone is exactly what i want. Everytime i show a friend what my iPhone is capable of, they are amazed. And with this price, the iPad will be a sucess! I wish it came with a camera as well, but heck, i have the iPhone and it will work fine!
    You are forgetting students, they will be able to use this baby in class to write and to read their books.
    Besides, the kindle is ugly!

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    1. “Darn, i have an iPhone, a bigger iPhone is exactly what i want.”

      Of course, this is a bigger iPod touch. No making phone calls.

      “You are forgetting students, they will be able to use this baby in class to write and to read their books.”

      We’ll see how well the keyboard works. Yes, the iPhone’s keyboard is good in a pinch.

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  6. I agree; he did over-present it as a third device, but hey, so what. The best thing about this device is that it is not a laptop and not an iPhone. By not being a laptop, you don’t have to lug a noisy, heavy, expensive, power hungry device around that takes an age to boot up, needs a separate mouse to make the user interface “useful”, and by being a laptop is overcomplex if you only need something for everyday emailing, browsing, photos, videos, music. An iPhone is still too small for everyday emailing and browsing, even videos. And the iPad looks like it will have decent document editing and viewing via iWorks. At less than $900, it’s a bargain if you don’t need all the capability of a laptop, but want the functionality of a well-engineered device that will do 90% of your everyday laptop stuff.

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    1. You said what I tried to say more effectively. :)

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    2. Completely agree. People keep comparing apples to oranges. This is a new device and a good one.

      I have an iPhone a MacBook an iMac and still feels this device will be a great buy.

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  7. A device like this is made for a person like me. That is a device that I can leave around the house mostly, instantly taking it off standby on a whim, googling a query, writing a note or document, check email, with no mouse or keyboard, and when you are interrupted or finished instantly put it on standby. Quick and simple. A netbook or laptop does not do this with all the complexity and maintenance that a full OS brings. I already have a desktop for that. No and iPod TOuch does not do this, main reason is screen size.

    So there is a market for this, how big it is I don’t know.

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    1. but you can’t do two things at once its a massive step backwards

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    2. you can never do two ‘things’ at once physically. on a laptop you can have two applications ‘open’ at the same time, but never can you simultaneous type in both. when pandora or internet radio is your biggest reason for wanting ‘multi-tasking’ you’re not asking for multi-tasking. if apps open & close quick enough and implement auto-save the need for multiple apps to be open at the same time ceases to be a major drawback.

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    3. That’s just not the case. If you can’t multi-task, you can’t get Skype chat notifications if Skype is not in the forground. You can’t read one thing while another big thing downloads… you can’t .. I am sure you can think of many more…..

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  8. Couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. Was also hoping for video conferencing, and the ability to run native OSX applications. I guess these will be incorporated gradually in future releases.

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  9. I have the comments now and i have to say. It seems that you are forgeting that the majority of people use their computers for web browsing. Seriously, this will be the best thing for web browsing.
    I can see already, vendors selling a hardware to hold your iPad up so they can leave it on a slideshow so all their friends can see the photos on the living room!! D:

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  10. total waste, i figured it would be a replacement for laptop and desktop. but apple wont do that bc sales of other products would drop. i still like my ipod touch.

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