Some believe the iPad may be the greatest piece of technology since the can opener. Others think it could be as superfluous as the animatronics singing fish toys that were all the rage a few years ago.
But whether Apple’s iPad flops or reshapes the entire technology landscape, one thing is clear. For a few days around Saturday’s launch of the iPad, you won’t be able to browse the internet, open a newspaper or turn on the TV without being inundated with wonders and woes of Apple’s latest gizmo.
But opinions vary widely as to whether the 499-dollar iPad will replicate the amazing success of the iPod and iPhone, or whether it will instead imitate the famous failures of other products once hyped by Apple as revolutionary, such as the Newton, Apple TV and the Mac Cube.
Newsweek was in no doubt about the outcome.
“The iPad will change everything,” proclaimed the print weekly, which like other old-media publishers must be hoping that the device, with its 23-centimetre touch screen and purpose-built apps, will finally persuade customers to pay for news content - just as Apple’s iPod and iTunes coaxed people into actually paying for music.
Companies like The New York Times hope to be among the first to show special editions for the iPad, while blue-chip firms such as Unilever, Toyota and Fidelity have already signed up for ad spots in each of Time magazine’s first eight iPad issues, paying 200,000 dollars per page. Six advertisers, including Coca-Cola and FedEx, have agreements to place ads in The Wall Street Journal over a four- month period that will cost 400,000 dollars.
But nobody is even sure what iPad owners will use their devices for. Given its lack of a physical keyboard, its inability to multitask or run more than one programme at once, and its lack of support for the Flash platform on which most online video is based, it’s clearly no replacement for a laptop, yet.
In many ways it’s not even as good as the low-featured netbooks so smartingly ridiculed by Apple chief Steve Jobs when he unveiled the iPad to thousands of Apple fans in January.
Such factors prompted one contributor to the influential website Gizmodo to post an article entitled “8 Things That Suck About the iPad.” “A lot of people at Gizmodo are psyched about the iPad. Not me!” he wrote. “My god, am I under-whelmed by it. It has some absolutely backbreaking failures that will make buying one the last thing I would want to do.” Among the author’s other gripes: the lack of a camera, the absence of ports to connect to HD monitors and USB adapters, and the walled- garden architecture of the App Store, which gives Apple complete control over what programs are available on the iPad.
Apple can expect to face stiff competition as other companies gear up to bring out iPad competitors.
One of the most hotly rumoured devices is a dual screen mini- tablet from Microsoft called the Courier, which functions as a digital journal and appears to have numerous advantages over the iPad like its stylus input mode and multitasking ability. Dozens of different tablet computers running Google’s open-source Chrome operating system are due to hit the market by the end of the year.
While opinions differ on whether the iPad will be a runaway success, tech bible Wired is convinced that the digital world is ready for the tablet-computer revolution.
“The fact is, the way we use computers is outmoded,” the magazine’s Steven Levy wrote. “The graphical user interface that’s still part of our daily existence was forged in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Most of the software we use today has its origins in the pre-Internet era, when storage was at a premium, machines ran thousands of times slower and applications were sold in shrink-wrapped boxes for hundreds of dollars.
“With the iPad, Apple is making its play to become the centre of a post-PC era.”