Apple finally announced the iPad, its tablet PC, at a Jan. 27 presentation in San Francisco. The high-intensity buzz that built online in the weeks and days before the device's unveiling will likely continue for some time to come, as the same analysts and pundits who debated the then-vaporware's possible features now turn their attention to its likelihood of success or failure in the market.
For the moment, it seems that many of the tech competitors due to be directly affected by the iPad's release in two months, such as Amazon.com with its Kindle line of e-readers, have chosen to remain relatively quiet. During the Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas at the beginning of January, many manufacturers announced tablet PCs due to roll out later in 2010, perhaps hoping to benefit from the anticipation for Apple's product; whether they will succeed in presenting viable alternatives to the iPad remains to be seen.
The iPad has a 9.7-inch LED backlit glossy multitouch display with IPS technology, capable of displaying multimedia with 1024-by-768 resolution, and connectivity courtesy of either a Wi-Fi connection or combined Wi-Fi and 3G. The 1GHz Apple A4 proprietary processor, combined with either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB flash drives, will power a broad range of applications. Apple rates the device's battery life at 10 hours.
One potential competitor issued a cautious missive to the press on the same day as the iPad announcement.
"The introduction of another mobile device, which includes digital reading as part of its functionality, is a good thing for the digital book business," Steve Haber, president of Sony's Digital Reading Division, said in a Jan. 27 statement. "Mobile devices with reading capabilities will play a key role in the paradigm shift from analog to digital content. At Sony, we're focused on devices optimized for digital reading and believe that digital books sales will surpass print sales within five years, if not sooner."
In a research note published following Apple's announcement, IDC painted the upcoming battle between Apple and e-reader makers, in particular Amazon.com, as a somewhat even fight.
"Apple is taking on Amazon's Kindle directly with iPad, though iPad has weaknesses as a dedicated e-book reader and its entry level cellular-enabled model is $629, much more than Kindle's $259," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian wrote in a Jan. 27 research note. "IPS offers a better viewing angle than traditional LCD technologies, but is not any better than other LCDs outdoors, and its backlighting can induce discomfort from eyestrain, something that Kindle has hedged against with its E Ink display technology."
The iPad does possess certain advantages over existing e-readers, she went on to suggest.
"However, iPad's color display opens it up to a realm of color content not supported by Kindle," Kevorkian wrote. "The new iBookstore, supported with partnerships with five major publishers (Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette) give legitimacy to iPad as a reading device." In addition, she said, various publishing industry players could use the iPad to "experiment with new ad-based and premium business models in order to develop the digital distribution channel as ad-based print distribution declines."