Calling the iPad a computer is like calling a BMW a transportation device.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
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Apple's magazine-size iPad, at left showing a typical desktop with launch icons, and at right showing a newspaper (the New York Times). The iPad is designed for standard tasks such as e-mail, Web browsing, enjoying photos and videos, as well as reading newspapers, magazines and books (as an e-reader). The screen responds to touch. There is no mouse.
Apple's iPad is a laptop on steroids
Feb. 7, 2010
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The
Apple has unveiled its much-anticipated tablet computer, called the
iPad. It is much cheaper than many experts had predicted, selling for $499 for a 16-gigabyte version with built-in wi-fi. It will
go on sale starting in March, when the Federal Communications Commission is expected to complete its perfunctory review of the shielding in the iPad's case.
As a computer, the iPad is nothing short of cool. It's no bigger than a copy of a National Geographic
magazine, and it's almost as thin (just half an inch thick). A high-resolution color screen covers almost the full front surface,
and an on-screen keyboard pops up whenever you want to type anything (with an external keyboard available as an option). You
control everything by touch, using presses, swipes and multi-finger twists as on the iPhone. It has built-in stereo speakers and
But calling the iPad a computer is like calling a BMW a transportation device. Apple designed the iPad for
five primary tasks -- surfing the Web, doing e-mail, displaying and managing photos, viewing videos and reading e-books
(including online newspapers and magazines) -- and it does all of these with exceptional ease, judging from demonstrations of these functions. (I haven't yet held an iPad in my hands.).
But the iPad can also play music through iTunes, just like an iPod, and it can write documents, create
presentations and manipulate spreadsheets. Like the iPhone, it synchronizes its data with your Windows PC or Mac, too.
Because the iPad is related to the iPhone -- both use the same underlying software -- the iPad can run
existing iPhone apps as well as apps written to take advantage of the iPad's large screen. Apple says 140,000 of the apps,
including games, at the company's App Store will run on the iPad. (Apps are applications, or programs, written especially for a
mobile device.) Games written especially for the iPad will be available, too. Most apps at the App Store are free, and the rest usually sell for a couple of dollars.
The iPad comes with calendar, address-book, photo, iTunes and note-taking apps as well as a Web browser and
Battery life for the iPad's non-replaceable battery is rated at 10 hours between charges. Apple indicates
the battery should last five years.
The iPad comes in two basic versions, each with three memory configurations. The wi-fi-enabled iPad sells
for $499 with 16 gigabytes of memory, $599 with 32 GB and $699 with 64 GB. Wi-fi iPads will be available March 1. A version with
both wi-fi and 3G mobile connectivity (the same networking as the iPhone) sells for $130 more in each memory category.
Wi-fi-plus-3G models will be available in April. Apple is not taking advance orders at this time, but will notify potential
buyers when orders can be taken. (Go to www.apple.com/ipad/notify-me.)
Wi-fi iPads connect to the Internet through any wi-fi router or hotspot, usually without cost. (Many homes
already have wi-fi routers, as do such places as coffee shops, McDonalds restaurants, libraries and book stores.) But 3G
networking versions require monthly fees for Internet access. Apple says AT&T will offer unlimited 3G service for $30 a month,
but no contract will be required from AT&T.
At the iPad's introduction, the iPad was demo'd displaying The New York Times in e-reader form. Details
weren't available, but The Times said it would sell subscriptions for iPad owners.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs showed off the iPad's book-reading abilities using books from Apple's new iBookstore,
which can be accessed online from the iPad, much like the iTunes Store is now. Books from Penguin, Harper Collins, Macmillan,
Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster will be available when the iPad ships, with other publishers expected soon. Book
prices will be set by each publisher.
Book pages appear side by side when you hold the iPad horizontally. Touching the right part of the screen
turns the page; touching the left turns the page backwards. Text is sharp and clear, and you can choose the font each book is
As an e-book reader, the iPad is likely to take sales away from Amazon's Kindle, which has none of the
other functions of the iPad.
A notable omission on the iPad is a camera, although Apple could add a camera (for still shots as well as
teleconferencing) to a future version. Like the iPod, which comes in differing models, the iPad could branch into a family of
related devices if its market success is assured.
Comments from industry observers were mostly positive. Dan Costa, writing for PC Magazine, predicted that
the iPad "is going to be used as a flexible, interactive window on our digital lives." He added: "Every recipe finder, work-out
tracker, social media updater, language translator, photo viewer, guitar-chord tuner, and finger painting app available in the
App Store will work on the iPad."