Apple’s latest gadget is everything we hoped for, and so much less. Granted, the iPad is very cool, but it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary. It is essentially an extra-large iPod Touch with optional 3G wireless.
In my last post I identified five things I’d be watching for during the iPad event.
Here’s what I saw:
- Price: I’m not sure which is more surprising, the fact that iPad prices start at $499 or the fact there are no carrier subsidies for the 3G models. The pricing is a bold (and smart) move on Apple’s part. I’m guessing they’ve calculated how much revenue each unit will generate in the App Store. If that’s the case, the price reflects what is essentially an App Store subsidy (that would make the iPad the razor and Apps the blades). Whatever the reason for the low price, I expect that Apple will sell a boatload of these.
- Positioning: Steve Jobs was clear that the iPad is not a netbook. In fact, he actually spit on a netbook during his presentation (I suspect that will mysteriously be cut out of the “official” Apple version of the video). Apple is positioning the iPad as an entirely new category of device. Whether or not it’s a category that we really need is another question entirely. I thought the point of a multi-function device was to limit the number of gadgets we need to lug around. And here Apple goes, inventing an entirely new category of multi-function device. Look for the iManPurse coming soon to an Apple Store near you.
- Programming: Zero. That’s how many announcements Apple made about new iTunes programming initiatives. No subscription video or music service. No changes to iTunes, except for a screenshot of an iPad optimized store. Given the focus of the iPad as a media device, this was stunning. I can’t imagine that this is the last word on the iTunes media store prior to the iPad launch. I expect we’ll be hearing more from Apple before the product is available in stores (60 days for the WiFi models and 90 days for the 3G + WiFi models).
- Publishers: As rumored over the past couple of weeks, Apple will be selling ebooks iBooks. Not in the iTunes media store, but in the new iBookstore application. Books will be sold in the standard ePub format, but it’s not clear what form of DRM will be used, so we have no idea if these books will be readable on other devices. Apple’s approach to ebooks seems somewhat odd. It’s not clear why they needed to create a new store when they could easily have added ebooks to the main iTunes media store. Given Apple’s reported 11th hour negotiations with publishers, it’s possible that the iBookstore was a last-minute addition. As for newspapers, well, the New York Times looked great on the iPad. But there was no indication of how newspapers will generate revenue from content. Is it an app? A subscription website? No one seems to know. Unless Apple schedules a special event featuring newspaper, magazine, and book publishers, I’m not seeing the iPad as a savior for print media.
- The Unexpected Clearly, the biggest unexpected announcement was the price. I’m also intrigued by the fact that Apple seems to be disconnecting itself from mobile carriers. While Jobs plugged a couple of contract-free AT&T 3G data packages, the iPad will be sold unlocked, so consumers can sign up with another carrier if they choose. Let’s hope this is a preview of how Apple plans to sell iPhones in the future.
If you haven’t had enough Unicorn speculation don’t worry, the iPad won’t be available for another 60 days. Unicorn hunters have eight weeks to dream up all sorts of new rumors before they finally get to see this beast in the flesh.