When Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad tablet Jan. 27, the excitement was palpable. For months, the tech industry has been overrun with rumors and speculation about what the device would offer. But when Jobs announced the iPad on stage, he unveiled a product that is unique in some areas and a disappointment in others.
The iPad is not the revolutionary product so many hoped it would be. Instead, the device is simply a tablet computer with a unique operating system and one very important element: the Apple name.
The fact that the iPad comes from Apple is the device’s greatest virtue. Without that Apple logo on the back, the iPad wouldn’t have garnered the kind of attention it did on Wednesday. Today, people wouldn’t be talking about the device at water coolers. Thanks to Apple, a device that is not revolutionary in any way has reached a level of hype that no other product on the market can muster.
Let’s take a look at why the iPad, without that Apple logo, would fail.
1. The Apple hype machine
If any other company had been preparing to release the iPad, we probably would have never heard about it before its debut. In the tech industry, Apple captivates the attention of just about everyone. That’s mainly due to the success it has enjoyed in the past, but it might also be attributed to the company’s secrecy. Try as some might, they won’t be able to get much (if anything) out of any Apple employee. All that helps build the hype machine that preceded Apple’s iPad announcement. It got everyone excited about the iPad. And it made the announcement a major event.
2. An Apple-only affair
We can’t forget that several tablets were announced by other companies at CES. All those companies were forced to share the spotlight with the competition and hope that the media would cover their launches. Apple, on the other hand, enjoyed the luxury of missing CES and inviting a huge press corps to see what it was up to weeks after the industry event. If Dell, Hewlett-Packard or any other tablet maker attempted such a feat, few would care. But because it was Apple that invited the media, they attended in droves and the iPad received the kind of attention no other tablet has.
3. Steve Jobs is a star
Dell might have Michael Dell. Microsoft might have Steve Ballmer. But no other CEO in the tech industry enjoys the kind of respect and following that Jobs does. When Jobs makes an announcement, people listen. That’s mainly due to his track record. For years, he has led Apple as it has delivered some of the most compelling and revolutionary products on the market. Surely he could do it again with the iPad, right? That’s up for debate. If Ballmer had announced the same product, it’s unlikely that it would have received such glowing praise. Jobs is an asset to any Apple product. The iPad is no different.
4. It would otherwise be forgotten
The iPad won’t be available for 60 to 90 days, depending on the version the customer wants. Products from lesser companies would be forgotten in that time. But for the next 60 to 90 days, folks will be talking about the iPad, what it will offer and how groundbreaking it is, simply because it has earned the kind of attention that only Apple products can. How many people know that HP is releasing its Slate computer later in 2010? How many have heard of the JooJoo? After those products were announced, they were forgotten. Most folks won’t even know when they hit store shelves. The iPad is different. And it has its Apple logo to thank for it.
Essential, Innovative Features Missing from the iPad
5. It’s a news release
As nice as the iPad might be, the device didn’t warrant a full-fledged press conference. Regardless, sending out a news release is not how Apple does business. Jobs has made it a point to make any product his company releases look far more important than it really is. For example, a quick comparison between the iPad and several other tablets on the market reveals an interesting fact: Apple’s product is not head and shoulders above the competition. The iPad simply didn’t require such pomp and circumstance. If any other company besides Apple had announced the product, it would have been just another news story that far fewer people would have noticed.
6. Where’s the multitasking?
Unfortunately, the iPad doesn’t support multitasking. That means that if users want to listen to music and surf the Web at the same time, they can’t. It also means that if users want to switch between a document and the Web to check facts, they won’t be able to, since the original program will need to be shut down to open the other app. Any other device would sit on store shelves for that omission. The iPad will likely sell well in spite of it.
7. No Flash? No go
The Apple iPad doesn’t support Flash. In other words, users who are browsing to several different sites across the Web will enjoy an experience that is decidedly less appealing than anything they can get on a laptop. For many, that would be a deal breaker. But since it’s an Apple product, you can bet that far more people will be drawn in by the company that has built the device, not knowing that it lacks a key feature that will severely limit Web browsing. Apple can get away with no Flash support. No other company can.
8. It’s a ‘middle-of-the-road’ device
As Jobs pointed out during his address, the iPad is a middle-of-the-road device. It’s not as convenient to use as the iPhone, but it’s also not as capable as a laptop. Jobs believes that will only help the iPad, since folks who want to use it in the home will have a mobile companion to perform basic tasks. But in practice, how many people would really want such a device? Since it’s an Apple product, they might go for it. If another company offered it, they probably wouldn’t.
9. Adapters galore
In an attempt to make the iPad as sleek as possible, Apple hasn’t built any USB ports or an SD card slot into the iPad. That’s a problem. If the device is supposed to be a replacement for other devices used for simple tasks, a user should be able to add pictures to it with an SD card or take files off the device with a USB key. Apple has said it will make adapters available to accommodate those users, but, as always, it will cost them. The lack of a USB port is a major omission that Steve Jobs glossed over during his speech. A lesser company’s product would be relegated to the junk heap for that.
10. It’s not so pretty
A hallmark of all Apple products is design. More often than not, the devices the company releases are far more beautiful than any competing product. But the iPad is different. The device’s bezel is huge, making the screen look smaller than it really is. Worst of all, a quick comparison between the iPad and its competition reveals that some products, especially HP’s Slate, are actually on equal footing, if not better looking than Apple’s iPad. Unfortunately for HP, few people know that.