So. Now we know.
The worst-kept secret in the history of poorly kept secrets is out. The Next Big Thing will be Apple’s iPad — as widely predicted, a tablet-style device, like an oversized iPhone or iPod Touch, that is poised to do for the written word what iTunes did for music. The New York Times, fresh from its announcement last week that it will soon start charging for access to much of its online content, even showed off a newsreader application at the invitation-only Apple presentation today in San Francisco.
Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, also demonstrated an e-book store that will put the iPad in direct competition with Amazon, whose Kindle has revolutionized the field of digital reading but has faced more than its share of problems, including criticism that it lacks luster as a newspaper reading device, public outcry over the remote removal of content from consumers’ devices and a less-than-successful experiment as a textbook platform that provoked lawsuits on behalf of the blind.
If the battle for user-friendly and inclusive technology comes down to Apple vs. Amazon, I know who I’m picking. You can’t cross a street without seeing an iPod of some kind. Kindles? Not so much.
The iPad will be far more affordable than most pundits thought: $499-$699, depending on storage, available in March … or $629-$829, if you want 3G models, which will be available in April. That’s starting to look a lot more like the $1,000 price tag that has been floating around the blogosphere in recent weeks … And it might seem more affordable if we weren’t clawing our way out of a recession and a tenth of us weren’t unemployed.
But if Jobs is true to his word, the iPad’s batteries, at least, will be worthy of a small fortune: He promises 10 hours (including video playback) and a full month in standby mode before needing a charge.
But all of this is old news already. Do we really need an iPad?
It’s potentially a huge new gaming platform, but that marketplace is crowded already. It’s going to be a swell video device, but many of us have laptops that we use as portable DVD players and others have spent large fortunes on home theater systems. It will help you organize your life with its full-size calendar … but we already have countless planning tools — many of them free — and most of us are still disasters in that area.
The size of the iPad seems reasonable — comparable to a clipboard or a spiral notebook. It will have a screen just under 10 inches. It’s body is a half-an-inch thick and it weighs a pound-and-a-half. But it’s almost ridiculous how Apple seems to have taken an iPhone and — POOF! — magically enlarged it. Then there’s the name. iPad. I’ve already heard, today, comparisons to feminine hygiene products and PADDs, those touch-screen tablets everyone was carrying around on the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The jokes are already proliferating online. I’m sure each one will wound Apple executives deeply as they cash enormous paychecks.
Do we need the iPad? I don’t know. All I do know is this: I want the thing. Right now.
But I don’t want to want it.