Just finished watching multiple live blogs covering the launch of Apple Inc.'s “newest creation,” as it was billed to the press. Quelle surprise! It's a tablet (or “slate,” as all the cool kids are calling it now).
Steve Jobs debuted the long-rumoured iPad to journalists and industry watchers today — half an inch thick, 1.5 pounds, with a 9.7-inch touchscreen. If the word “tablet” conjures up the tablet PC form factor you've become accustomed to over the last few years, give your mental Etch-a-Sketch a shake. Think outsize iPhone instead.
Because that's definitely what the iPad is. Sure, it's got a custom Apple A4 1GHz processor under the hood (“It screams,” enthused Jobs); it can handle a little more robust applications, like Apple's iWork suite; put the multi-touch screen, landscape/portrait, synch-to-your-desktop, download-your-apps experience is all iPhone. First impressions:
1. Jobs called the pricing “aggressive”; Wi-Fi-only models start at $499 U.S., 3G models $629. Pundits had predicted a $999 price point. There's a reason for that.
The price of an iPhone is largely subsidized by wireless carriers in exchange for a long-term contract. Apple's deal with AT&T in the U.S. calls for $24.99 a month unlimited data, on a pay-as-you-go basis. No contract, no subsidy. Apple had to price aggressively to make sure these puppies move.
2. All 3G iPads will ship unlocked. That, along with the no-contract deal, gives users a lot of flexibility, and will force carriers into cutthroat competition when everyone and his dog has one.
3. Both of the above have profound implications for the Big 3 Canadian carriers. They're all on the same network technology now; the iPad experience will be essentially the same on any one of them. There are no subsidies to offer, no contract to imprison customers. If Jobs can make this model fly in Canada — and it's easy to envision recalcitrance on the part of carriers grown fat by seducing customers into long-term contracts with subsides — competition should be intense. If someone isn't offering all-you-can-eat for less than $30 a month when the 3G iPad launches here, possibly as soon as June, then I'm calling collusion.
4. Speaking of launching here, the Wi-Fi-only models will ship worldwide in 60 days. That's a substantial acceleration compared to the iPhone, which left fanbois panting for six months in the U.S. — almost a year and a half here — after its announcement.
5. The impact on the smart phone market is impossible to determine at this point. Those who want to do real work on a connected-everywhere mobile device are going to take a hard look at whether they'd rather squint at a 3.5-inch screen or carry a light slate and a dumb phone (is that actually a category?). I know what my answer would be.
6. Policy-wise, IT is going to have to treat the iPad like a smart phone, not a computer. This will never be hardwired into the network (I don't believe there's an Ethernet port, though I could be wrong. The closest it'll get is synchronization with a desktop.
7. I want one. Now.