We all pretty much knew it was happening, and Steve Jobs didn’t let us down: Apple (s AAPL) introduced a tablet device called the iPad at today’s event in San Francisco. You can read a play-by-play of the unveiling on TheAppleBlog’s Twitter feed and check this post for links to the complete GigaOM network coverage. Of course, the aspect that we we’re most interested in is: How good of a newteevee device is the iPad?
Video actually played a big role during the announcement, with Jobs saying that a new device only made sense if it was better at watching video, among other tasks, than current laptops and smartphones. Jobs also demoed watching YouTube in HD and playing movies and TV shows from the iTunes store. However, a small detail during the presentation revealed that the iPad won’t satisfy all your online video needs.
First, a few word about the specs: The iPad features a 9.7-inch IPS display. This type of LCD display technology features better viewing angles than your average desktop screen, which should help to make the iPad an in-your-lap kind of device. IPS is generally known to use a little more power than regular LCDs, but Jobs said that the iPad will still offer around 10 hours of video viewing on one charge. Apple will sell the tablet with 16-64 GB of Flash storage. That’s not that much for HD video, but it should suffice for the average user, especially given the fact that you’d only watch an iTunes rental once before deleting it. The iPad will have a 1Ghz processor that Apple developed in-house and presumably some powerful GPU working under the hood to make HD video work.
Now, what will be available in terms of video content? Obviously iTunes downloads, but also YouTube, and live video delivered through apps. One example for this was a demo by MLB.com, which combined full-screen live streams from games with advanced features like instant replay, information about the trajectory of every pitch and a choice of announcers.
One interesting aspect of the device was briefly shown during the presentation of the New York Times iPad app. The application seemed to have a similar look and feel as its iPhone counterpart, judging from photos available on various gadget blogs. However, videos were playable directly on the page, much like you would expect from a video embed on a web site. That’s not really so revolutionary for an online news offering, but it opens up a whole range of possibilities for adding video content to apps for magazines or even dictionaries.
Speaking of books: iPad owners will have access to the iBook app, which is essentially a Kindle-like e-book experience, but for a color display. Apple is using the ePub format for this. ePub is an open standard based on XML which theoretically would allow publishers to include multimedia files as well. However, no such capabilities were demoed on stage, and it’s unclear whether the iPad will actually support video integration in its e-books, because the iPad doesn’t support Flash.
Yes, no Flash on the iPad. There, I said it. Unlike Jobs, who tried really hard to avoid the subject on stage. Of course, maybe he shouldn’t have gone to the New York Times web site, where an embedded ad produced a “missing plug-in” error early on during the presentation. That means you won’t be able to watch any content from Hulu on the iPad and many embedded videos on blogs and other sites won’t play, either. Of course, some content will be available through dedicated apps, since many platforms have tried to get their video on the iPhone, which also doesn’t have Flash.
Finally, there’s no video camera integrated into the iPad, and Jobs didn’t announce any video accessories. However, I could see third-party companies jumping onto this, provided that Apple doesn’t somehow lock the dock interface. One possible application: a teleprompter for podcasters, complete with an attached camera. But enough with the speculation, let’s hear your thoughts: Do you think the iPad will make a good online video device? What are you going to use it for — or what’s gonna stop you from buying it?
For more on the iPad’s impact on online video, check Get Ready for the iPad to Change the Way You Watch Video.