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iPad is really big iPhone, without the phone

iPad is really big iPhone, without the phone

Apple frontman Steve Jobs took to the stage on Wednesday evening to unveil the latest must have gadget created by the Californian purveyor of cool stuff.

It’s a tablet, or a slate, or at least it fits into that form factor category. But in terms of functionality it falls into one of these new niches that the portable computing or MID (mobile internet device) sector seems to keep spawning.

The iPad looks and feels much like a big iPhone, albeit one with a 9.7” LED display. It will be available with either wifi or wifi and 3G connectivity, but it doesn’t support cellular voice. It seems to attack the burgeoning e-reader space, dominated by the likes of Amazon’s Kindle, and the forthcoming Android-based devices that offer more features and functionality, yet it doesn’t support multitasking, at least not with third party apps.

Apple will open up a new section in the App Store to cater to the iPad, although the device is also able to use 140,000 existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications. However, some have noted that once some of these apps scale up to the available resolution of the iPad (1024 by 768 pixels at 132 pixels per inch) they look a bit like the blocky graphics of the Commodore 64.

Taking the e-reader market head on, the iPad will feature an iBooks app that allows users to browse, purchase and download e-books to read on the device. The screen isn’t up to the same standards as electronic ink, but that’s because it’s being pitched as a jack of all trades when teamed with the iWork suite of office tools, Safari browser (with the same lack of support for Flash and Java that the iPhone suffers from), email client, and photo, video and music player apps.

Initial thoughts from David McQueen, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media:

“Bypassing the operator was always on the cards. A 3G connection is not standard on the iPad, it’s an option, and Apple already has a very settled distribution and retail network for its other devices. In fact, Google did the same thing when it launched the Nexus One, although this was only online retail. The thing mobile operators bring to the consumer is the potential for subsidy and another distribution channel.

“For the operators such a device can help with data revenues, reduce churn, provide differentiation and attract new subscriptions. However, the latter is only really possible if there is exclusivity to a particular operator in a market, but as the iPad is an unlocked device this will not be the case, unless there is any first mover advantage, such as T-Mobile US and the Nexus One.”

Jobs took a pop at the netbook segment as nothing but a cheap laptop form factor, but it the iPad also seems to have designs on this sector. Accessories for the device include a full keyboard dock and a connector to transfer files from a camera – it doesn’t feature an integrated camera.

The wifi only model will start shipping in late March, costing an almost Kindle DX busting $499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB model, and $699 for the 64GB model. The wifi and 3G models will be available in April for $629 for the 16GB model, $729for the 32GB model and $829 for the 64GB model, although users will then need to buy a data plan from AT&T or the as yet unannounced international carriers.

Cellular voice is missing but an interesting development in the iPhone SDK was revealed this week that may pave the way for VoIP on the device. Application developer iCall said that the iPhone SDK has been updated to allow VoIP calling from the device over 3G networks. iCall now has a 3G VoIP application available for the iPhone and Google Voice is now expected to be allowed onto the handset. Because the iPad can run iPhone apps, it has also been suggested that 3G voice may work on the new gadget.

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One comment

  1. iPad Developer! 28/01/2010 @ 3:09 pm

    I’m only 45 minutes into the launch video… but it’s clear the Kindle just died.
    In the end success will be how much of the ad revenue generated in selling to the key ABC1 demographic.
    IMO Apple has made a major step towards owning that market…

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