by Anton Shilov
01/27/2010 | 03:49 PM
After months of speculations about plans to release a netbook or a tablet, Apple on Wednesday unveiled its iPad, a hybrid of tablet PC, electronic book reader and a smartphone. The company hopes to redefine the market of mobile gaming, e-book reading and mobile computing. Even though the iPad sports a number of advantages its price is higher compared to specialized devices.
“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price. iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before,” said Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple.
Apple iPad is based on Apple’s own A4 system-on-chip designed by PA Semi team that contains ARM processor core at 1GHz. The SoC is tailored for ultra-mobile applications and can enable device to work for up to 10 hours in active mode (reading, watching videos or listening to music) with display brightness reduced by 50%, a rather remarkable achievement for a tablet PC, but well below that of electronic book readers. Performance and capabilities of the SoC are unknown, but since during the official presentation Apple demonstrated a Need for Speed: Shift version running on the iPad, the graphics core of the SoC may be very powerful and may be licensed from Imagination Technologies.
The iPad is equipped with 9.7” multi-touch IPS LCD screen with 768x1024 resolution; 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of flash storage; USB, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and 3G (special versions only) connectivity as well as SD card reader. The product is 9.56” (24.3cm) in height, 7.47” (19cm) in width and has 0.5” (1.3cm) thickness. Apple iPad weighs 1.5 pounds (0.68kg). The tablet PC runs iPhone OS 3.2 with all of its pros and cons and can also run applications developed for iPhone as well as specially designed software.
Apple also announced the new iBooks app for iPad, which includes Apple’s new iBookstore. The iBookstore will feature books from major and independent publishers. Apple did not announce the cost of the books.
iPad will be available in late March worldwide for a suggested retail price of $499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB model, $699 for the 64GB model. The Wi-Fi + 3G models of iPad will be available in April in the U.S. and selected countries for a suggested retail price of $629 for the 16GB model, $729 for the 32GB model and $829 for the 64GB model. International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date. iBookstore will be available in the U.S. at launch.
Specifications and capabilities of Apple iPad seem to be rather impressive: the product can really playback video with decent quality, work with multimedia applications, allow to read and purchase electronic books rather conveniently as well as play video games. However, Apple’s tablet is a much more expensive than Amazon Kindle ($249), iPod touch ($199), Sony PlayStation Portable ($169), Nintendo DSi ($169) or a typical netbook with 10.1” screen (~$349 - $499). The key advantage of the iPad is that it can make all of the above in a fairly good way. Meanwhile, specialized devices suit better for their primary applications.
It remains to be seen whether Apple iPad will become popular on the market, considering the fact that it is not as portable and cannot make phone calls as iPhone and not as powerful as Macbook systems, it even does not support multi-tasking, according to some reports. While iPad may be a good solution for some users, it should be kept in mind that it cannot substitute a cell phone or a fully-fledged notebook, but should be used like a companion device.