Apple made its much-hyped iPad tablet PC available for preorder on the morning of March 12, three weeks before the device's actual release. The iPad's success or failure will likely influence, in a substantial way, whether the nascent movement to make tablet PCs a common consumer item becomes an established trend.
Apple is apparently imposing an iPad pre-order of two per customer. While iPads equipped with WiFi will be available April 3, those ordering an iPad with WiFi and 3G will need to wait until "late April" before their device ships. The contract-free AT&T 3G data plan sells for 250 MB per month at $14.99, or unlimited for $29.99.
The devices can be pre-ordered from the Apple Website.
The marketing push for the iPad has already begun in earnest, with Apple airing its first television commercial for the device during the Academy Awards telecast March 7. That 30-second spot focused on a pair of hands using the tablet PC as a media player, e-reader, scheduler and e-mail platform.
That advertisement also gave viewers a chance to view some details of the iPad's user interface, including an iPhone-like "Slide to Unlock" bar, an iBookstore for e-books designed to recall the iTunes store, a virtual QWERTY keyboard and an iWork productivity suite optimized for touch. Perhaps in keeping with the iPad being more unfamiliar to consumers than a traditional laptop, the ad devotes all its time to detailing the device's functions, as opposed to the usual Apple marketing campaigns that tend to center on the company's tech-hipster ethos.
Apple is preparing for 150,000 apps to be available when the device launches, according to the Apple Website, which represents a slight rise from the 140,000 apps suggested during the iPad's unveiling Jan. 27. The company has been encouraging developers to build apps via the iPhone SDK 3.2 beta; according to mobile analytics company Flurry, the number of Flurry analytics being integrated into iPhone OS applications increased threefold in January, suggesting that developers were jockeying to take advantage of the iPad's release.
Apple's App Store will feature 300,000 apps by the end of 2010, according to research firm IDC, an expansion that has led the company to increasingly crack down on what it views as inappropriate programs and shady practices by a small subset of developers. In a Feb. 22 article in The New York Times, Apple's head of worldwide product marketing, Philip Schiller, suggested that certain controversial apps had been pulled from the storefront because users complained their content was "too degrading and objectionable." Apple has also pulled apps by developers who allegedly posted fake positive reviews.
The 16GB version of the iPad will cost $499 with WiFi, and $629 with WiFi and 3G. The 32GB version will cost $599 with WiFi, and $729 with Wi-Fi and 3G. The 64GB version will cost $699 with WiFi, and $829 with WiFi and 3G.