News Analysis: I have to hand it to Apple. The company really had me going.
Earlier this month I ripped the computer maker for potentially attaching a $1,000 price point for a newfangled device.
Apple said the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model starts at $499. Users can pay $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi only model or $699 for a 64GB Wi-Fi model. These will ship in March from the Apple Store and retailers.
True, one can pay $1,000 and a lot more for an iPad. Consumers who opt to buy an iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G will pay $629 for a 16GB model, $729 for 32GB and $829 for 64GB.
Whether you buy the low-end 3G model or the 64GB 3G supreme you're still going to top $1,000 at some point because to run the 3G you need to buy data plans from AT&T when these machines are available in April. Unlimited data plans will cost $30 per month. Add that up over the course of the year and you can tack on $360 to the TCO.
You can cheat the $1,000 TCO barrier for one year by buying any of the 3G models with a limited data plan, which costs $15 per month. The point is, you can own an optimized 3G iPad with all the storage one should ever need (64-freakin' GB) for under $1,000.
That's great news for consumers looking for interesting computers in tough economics, particularly in the wake of the buildup that had financial analysts and other "insiders" claiming the iPad would cost $600 to $1,000.
Instead, experts are praising the price point. Digital device expert Walt Mossberg called this "amazingly low-priced for an Apple product."
Gartner's Ray Valdes wrote: "This was well played in the media by Apple, because Apple cultivated (or at least did not dispel) widespread speculation that the tablet would come in at $999. That high price would have given ammunition to competitors that want to reinforce Apple's historically elitist image."
Valdes' last comment underscores how easy it was to believe Apple would charge $1,000 for a base iPad. People are used to paying $1,000-plus for Mac computers, particularly the Macbooks.
Apple's computers and first-generation iPhones have been almost a sleight-of-hand trick. Distract them with cool, wow, look-at-that technology and, while you have them under this spell, take a few more bills out of their wallets that they might have saved elsewhere on non-Apple products. Apologies to anyone who spent $600 on the first-generation iPhone.
The iPad, I'm tickled to say, is different. It's pricing model is devoid of the hucksterism and is replaced by a pleasant, "there's something here for everyone, folks."
The number I keep coming back to is the entry price for the tablet is $499 for the 16 GB, entry-level model, which I imagine will be just fine for people who want a new way to surf the Web but don't require a data-hoarding monster of a machine on which to store their digital life.
This could deal a blow to netbook makers such as Asus, HP, Acer or Dell. There are consumers out there, admittedly many of them perhaps iPhone users, who don't require the physical keyboards and clamshell form factor.
Apple hasn't just launched a computing machine for the affluent. It has launched a device that could appeal to a broad cross-section of users, from affluent teenagers to media-hungry adults to use for work and play.
To me, that's the best part about the iPad and is enough to overlook version 1.0 omissions, things that will no doubt improve in the second generation.
No camera is tough for Web video aficionados and leaving out multitasking was a blow to expectations, because we're all used to having several apps open on our computers at once. Apple, please put out a product that doesn't rely solely on AT&T's network pipes.
Ultimately, hats off to Apple for controlling the pricing game and making the iPad palatable for the cost-conscious. The iPad is here to stay.