Posted by: Frank | January 27, 2010

Has Apple Made Tablets Legit?

Of all the gadgets in the world, the tablet computer might just garner the most extreme of reactions. You either love them or hate them, or at the very least don’t know what to do with them. Bill Gates tried to get us to buy them, though his vision of a tablet had a digitizer and stylus, and some came with a keyboard. Bill’s tablets never sold because they were too expensive, and in my opinion the reason why is that the hardware companies choose to sell tablets as premium devices.

Today Steve Jobs showed us his idea for a tablet. Actually, from what I have read so far, it seems to me we’ve have known Steve’s idea for some time, it’s a larger iPod Touch. I have yet to learn of any feature of the iPad that isn’t available in a smaller size on the iPod Touch, save for one. The iPad has a new processor that will be manufactured by Apple as opposed to Intel or some other company. Apple claims the processor enables the iPad to have ten hours of usable battery life, and those ten hours are impressive when compared to notebook computers, though some netbooks already obtain nearly the same amount of battery life.

So, unless I just have not yet read about the feature that makes the iPad really whizbang, I got to ask the question, why the heck did it take Apple this long to bring it to market? Since there doesn’t appear to be any new technology in the iPad that wasn’t available a year or two ago, why the wait? Perhaps Apple believes that it needed two years of built up hype to create the market it claims the iPad now serves.

One of my main questions going into today’s announcement was, just how much would the device cost? A starting price of $499 is better than I expected, but I wonder whether the device is attractive enough to general consumers at that price. The geeks and Apple fanboys will most likely go for the higher priced models, with the 64 GB model that supports Wi-fi and3G costing a more normal Apple price of $829.

It appears as though Apple is also pitching the iPad as their alternative to a netbook. It’s understandable from their point of view because they don’t want to eat into sales of the Macbooks, but I think that while the iPad is a computing device, it is not a personal computer. It doesn’t have a keyboard (though you can attach a keyboard, but who want’s to carry one around?) for high volume data entry and it doesn’t do full computing tasks like running more than one application at a time. Netbooks are small personal computers, with keyboards, that run full operating systems and therefore can run full software and multiple applications at a time. People who need a netbook will not find an iPad a good alternative.

For myself, I am waiting to learn more about the HP Slate, which HP and Microsoft announced at CES. From what I can tell, it will run Windows 7 that supports touch input, however, what I really want is a slate that supports both touch and stylus (digitizer) input because I want to write notes in digital ink and store them in Evernote. HP and other companys already sell computers with touch screens and digitizers, and even have keyboards (they are what are known as convertible Tablet PCs), but I think they are too expensive and too heavy.

Even though I am not overwhelmed by the iPad announcement, I do think it may be a milestone in the developing personal computer timeline. With the iPad Apple is attempting to create a market through Steve’s will, and if any company can do it, Apple can. While I have long been a fan of tablet computers, I know today it is not a market of any significance. It remains to be seen whether Apple will succeed in finally making tablets a legitimate member of the personal computer family.

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