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Is Apple’s new iPad going to be worth the cost?

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 20:02

This week, Apple unveiled its latest creation dubbed the “iPad.” Steve Jobs promises that this tablet device is a game-changer, a revolution in computing, and some have quoted Jobs as saying this is the most important thing he has ever worked on. But when the device was unveiled this past week, the tech world was collectively underwhelmed.

Apple is known for secretly designing products like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone and letting speculation run wild as to what the devices will be like when the company unveils them. The iPad was no different. In fact, speculation of the device built for over 3 years. Some blogs talked about a device with a forward facing camera capable of recognizing the user and making interface adjustments. There was some discussion of an Amazon-like library of books and magazine available at launch. Regardless of the iPad wish list, and who made said wish list, one item was always included…the iPad should not be an oversized iPhone. It should stand on its own merit.

The iPhone plays movies, replaces an iPod, allows the user to read books, surf the net, handle email, take pictures, record video, send text messages, place phone calls, and fit neatly into one’s pocket. Additionally, the iPhone is exclusively available at AT&T;, a company whose network is plagued with data problems. Finally, the iPhone is offered at a pretty complex tiered pricing scheme.

The iPad plays movies, replaces an iPod, allows the user to read books, surf the net, and handle email. It does not take pictures, record video, send text messages, place phone calls, and does not fit neatly into one’s pocket. It is, however, tied exclusively to AT&T; and offered at a complex tiered pricing scheme. If you want a 16 GB iPad (and you have access to a variety of wi-fi hotspots), you can buy one for $499. If you plan to travel with the device and want 3G coverage, add $130 to the price and plan to spend $15-$30 a month for 3G coverage for AT&T;’s on-again-off-again 3G service. The pricing climbs from there, reaching $829 for a 64 GB model with wi-fi and 3G coverage and before data charges.

Steve Jobs presented most of his speech from a lounge chair and kept referring to the iPad as “holding the internet in your hand.” Does this make it a game changer? At this point, it’s hard to tell. Apple has signed five major publishers for its new iBooks store. It may be that schools adopt the iPad as a form of dynamic textbook. Publishers of newspapers may finally be able to charge for content again. For now, the iPad appears to be an iPhone that does not fit well into a pocket or a laptop case. Furthermore, we have yet to see whether a student will be able to take notes using the device replacing college ruled paper pads.

While it seems that there are not a lot of features on the iPad worth celebrating, there is one that is worth noting…the $499 entry-level price point. Over the past three years, conservative estimates priced the iPad at $800. When Jobs announced that the iPad sells for $499, there was a cheer that went up in the audience. Not everyone was cheering, however. Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal noted that computer-makers like Dell and Toshiba have traditionally built competitive products well under Apple’s pricing umbrella. The $499 entry-level price point is hard to get under with a cutting edge piece of technology. Is the iPad a game changer or a computer revolution? At this time, it is hard to tell. It is fairly safe to say that those techies who operate outside of Apple’s cult following are underwhelmed and are looking for more than a awkwardly sized iPhone incapable of taking calls.

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