THEPADDING LEAD

Ap­ple’s long-ru­mored tablet, the iPad, fi­nally ar­rives. And, as usual, Ap­ple ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions.

Chicago Sun-Times - - Money -

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.

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