Apple’s long-rumored tablet, the iPad, finally arrives. And, as usual, Apple exceeds expectations.
Apple finally unveiled its inevitable tablet computer, dubbed, yes, the “iPad,” on Wednesday. After Steve Jobs left the stage, the media moved on to a room in which about a dozen or so iPads were out for heavy petting purposes. I probably got in about 45 minutes of play time with it.
It’s beautiful. It’s elegant. It’s useful. And it is indeed just an iPhone with a glandular condition. The only time this computer ever stymied me was when I forgot that it works exactly like an iPhone. I kept hunting for the icon to launch its Web browser. I scrolled back and forth through the three pages of icons on the demo unit before realizing that, er, it’s right there at the bottom of every launcher screen. Just where I would find it on my iPhone.
Hrm. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my predictions of what an Apple tablet would be like. I imagined that the iPad team would engage in lots of long, philosophical internal discussions about what it “means” to handle a tablet-size device and then create a brand-new and breathtakingly innovative UI that was as different from the iPhone as the iPhone was from other smartphones.
But Apple has the annoying habit of producing products that make perfect sense once you get your hands on them. It struck me that Apple was making a clear statement with the iPad: “We were right about the iPhone.” They had a clear and ambitious concept about an entirely new computing platform and an entirely new way that humans would interact with hardware. They were so right that when the time came to build a tablet, changing the UI seemed vulgar at best.
Having used the iPad for all of 45 minutes, I tend to agree. The damned thing works. If the iPhone had never existed, the iPad would still have made sense as a touchbased computer.
But the iPhone has been a runaway success since from the start. Which means that this brand-new computer is supported by an application store that’s packed with highquality wares. Ditto the music and video store. The store has been expanded with a new book department — another development I was wrong about, assuming Apple would merely partner up for book sales and support.
I was right that the iPad would use the same software development tools and skills as the iPhone. But I never would have guessed that it will run its own “big tablet” apps as well as nearly every app written for the iPhone as well.
Launching a brand new kind of computer is a huge proposition; your first problem is explaining to consumers just what the hell it is.
The problem is as big as launching a Saturn rocket to the moon. Apple has made the smart play with this conservative tablet design.
Instead of building a brand-new vehicle and expending immense amounts of fire and violence just to break it free of Earth gravity . . . they’ve fixed the iPad on top of the iPhone’s engines. The iPhone scratched its way into Earth orbit. From there, the iPad can — possibly — reach another planet.