Apple iPad – First Impressions

Apple has unveiled its tablet computer, the iPad. As predicted, it’s basically a giant iPod Touch: thin aluminium back, with a 10-inch screen and shiny black border. At the bottom, there’s the standard iPod/iPhone connector and a single Home button. It will be available in models ranging from $499 US (16 GB, Wi-Fi) to $830 US (64GB, Wi-Fi, plus 3G cellular).

Realistically it will be a few months before meaningful judgments can be made on the success or failure of Apple’s iPad. but of course many are already weighing in.

Twitter engineer Alex Payne labels the iPad “a deeply cynical thing. It is a digital consumption machine.”

Adobe marketing manager Adrian Ludwig comments on Apple’s lack of support for Flash. “It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on [its] devices that limit both content publishers and consumers.”

With the iPad’s lack of camera and phone, and its software regulation, Tim Bray, Sun’s director of Web technologies states, “For creative people, this device is nothing.”

And Internet users — women particularly — have ridiculed the name “iPad”. (Rather a few YouTube clips have emerged worth a look if you’re in the mood for a giggle)

Apple’s defenders have risen to the challenge. Veteran Apple developer Jeff LaMarche dismisses some of the limitations to developers. “I’m a techie, but I don’t need to be able to program on every electronic device I own…I don’t hate my dishwasher because I can’t get to the command line.”

LaMarche makes an excellent point not heard enough in the debate on the iPad thus far – it is an appliance and not a personal computer in the traditional sense. Complaining that the iPad is a sub standard computer is like criticising your shovel for not making a very good eating utensil!

It will be interesting to see how Apple defines their market for the iPad, and whether it can really become the revolutionary product between the phone and laptop that they hope. Like the iPhone, the iPad is really a vessel, a sleek looking very cool sack of potential. Bashers of the iPad should tread carefully… It may turn out that criticising the iPad ends up being considerably easier than engineering, manufacturing, and marketing a superior alternative.

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