About a decade ago Mike Andrawes and I kept hoping someone would come out with a device that would make surfing the web on the couch easier than it was. Mike took the notebook route. He kept buying (or stealing from me) notebooks that were cooler, thinner and lighter while still being a notebook, for the purpose of browsing the web.

I took a more extreme route. I tried ultraportables. I bought a Sony PictureBook. It had a Transmeta Crusoe processor in it, which was horribly slow but gave me the form factor and battery life I craved. I put up with a ridiculously impractical screen just to get something small to browse the web and do work on.

Matthew Witheiler, another AnandTech veteran took a different path. He embraced the tablet PC. Matt became our Tablet PC reviewer on AnandTech as he searched for the perfect device. Unfortunately, he never found it.

None of us did. Today we all went back to the tried and true device: the notebook. The iPhone came along and gave us a revolution in the smartphone space. Ultimately it and the devices that followed just complemented our notebooks - sometimes with a new level of frustration as we were now at the mercy of wireless carriers and ridiculously slow SoCs.


The smartphone revolution gave us some great devices

History likes to repeat itself, and that’s what we’ve seen happen over the past two years. The introduction of the netbook brought the journey full circle. People wanted a cheap, light, portable web surfing and light work device - the netbook did just that.

The keyboard and screen issues have been mostly solved. Performance still sucks and part of that is due to the fact that there are no good netbook OSes that are optimized for the level of performance a 1.6GHz Atom can deliver. Most OEMs ship some variant of Windows on these devices, and with less than 2GB of memory and a single-core in-order CPU, that’s just too much to be fast.


Back to ultraportables again

There’s also the issue of storage. Netbooks desperately need solid state storage, but a single 2.5” SSD is often over half the price of a netbook itself. Pair up a slow CPU with not enough memory and a really slow hard drive and it’s not a good combination.

Microsoft, Intel and Apple have all taught me one very important lesson over the past 13 years: if you’re going after a new usage model, you need new technology to tackle it. For Microsoft and Apple that meant a new UI with Media Center and the iPhone. For Intel it meant a brand new microarchitecture optimized for power efficiency. First with Banias (Pentium M/Centrino) and then with Atom.

Netbooks, and to a greater extent tablets, eReaders and smartbooks, are going after new usage models. These aren’t notebook replacements, they are a new category of device designed for a different usage model. The one thing they’ve all been missing is the perfect combination of hardware and software to deliver the whole package.

The one thing Apple prides itself on is doing just that. As one of very few one-stop hardware/software makers, it has the ability to tightly couple UI with physical design. We saw it manifest in its greatest way with the iPhone, and now Apple (or perhaps the media covering Apple) is attempting to recreate the magic with the iPad.


The final frontier?

The device doesn’t ship for another 60 days, but there’s a lot to talk about based on today’s introduction alone.

The Basics
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  • Zebo - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    Has multi tasking
    Already has 10 hrs battery life
    Has Anything a PC does like Flash
    Light 3 lbs.
    Tough, can drop it
    Can play old games on it like warlords battle cry 3 currently..
    Can dock it like ipad.

    Reply
  • Roland00 - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    Don't get me wrong I like thinkpads (though have no personal experience with there tablet models)...BUT

    the thinkpad x200

    cost over 3x the cost of the ipad
    is double the weight.
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    [quote] The one thing Apple prides itself on is doing just that. As one of very few one-stop hardware/software makers, it has the ability to tightly couple UI with physical design. We saw it manifest in its greatest way with the iPhone, and now Apple (or perhaps the media covering Apple) is attempting to recreate the magic with the iPad. [/quote]


    You say that, but the iphone wasn't a breakaway hit.
    The iPhone eventually became a breakaway hit once it was fixed up and released a second and third time as a much improved product, but initially it didn't do all that well. Wouldn't surprise me to see if anything a very similar pattern with the iPad, only this time it will have better competition because it will be fighting both x86 based tablets with Windows or Linux, but also probably ARM based products.
    Reply
  • pugster - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    I agree, I think that Apple will probably release an ipad in the next coming years with an integrated camera and maybe an SD slot. They could've easily made an application called ichat and revolutionize im's. Some people probably thinks an ipad is too big and I would not be surprised that they will release an ipad mini or something like that with an 5"-7" screen.

    I doubted apple before with the ipod and iphone products but they were able to sell. I don't own both and I am not planning to buy them. I am seriously thinking of buying an ipad even though I'm not a apple fan.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    From a technology and a reception standpoint, I think the iPhone did quite well on its first iteration. It sold ridiculously well given the price point. Obviously it didn't come into its own until the 3G and associated price drops, but I don't believe it was a mediocre first start.

    I agree on the competition angle. Apple had a ~2 year head start with the original iPhone. We've only recently started to see real competition from Android based devices. The iPad will not enjoy such luxury, unless Apple has done something unusually revolutionary in its A4 silicon.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    I don't know if it fails, but it definitely isn't reaching it's potential.

    A device like this should be running it's own OS, or maybe not a new OS, but definitely a new framework. How long did it take to develop this? They act like there was a breakthrough. Is the fact that it plays the same stuff as an iPhone/iPod Touch supposed to make me happy? I mean it should be able to do that... it's the same thing with a larger form factor.

    The keyboard - most notably the worst part about the "iPx" (as I call it) brand - is the same thing! I was hoping for something that I could use to program iPhone apps on - the iPad is not for that. Microsoft had a better idea back when it split the keyboard in half and put it at both sides of the screen (a nice thumb keyboard).

    And did anyone else find the keynote boring as hell?
    A repetition of old applications and slow speech - really slow speech. As if talking slower will impress us more when demonstrating dated technology. And don't let me start on the "App Store" plugs that Jobs inserted every time he had a chance - as if we couldn't tell they just want us to spend more money. Jobs and staff act like the new "Calendar" and photo viewing is a revolution. I don't know, it looks similar to Microsoft Outlook's calendar, only there's no VBA behind it that I can script to customize and automate things.

    The best thing about the presentation was probably the accessories. The keyboard dock was nice, perhaps bluetooth would have been better. Why? There's no side port, so forget about those landscape papers - think PowerPoint.

    --------

    They talk about it being "redesigned", but the thing that needs to be redesigned is the framework. The iPad is not really customizable, so customers will have to hope for someone to JailBreak it. This is a necessity to really have applications that do something useful.

    If I haven't lost you yet, let me tell you the two things I found worst about the presentation:

    When Jobs loaded pages, it took forever - longer than my iPhone loads pages. It shouldn't matter that it's a bigger screen, the webpage data is the same. The problem is probably in Apple's A4 Processor, which probably is where they saved the money to drop the price down from $999 (that and no camera as you noted - probably not microphone either?). Notice that it is an 802.11n wifi, but it took forever to load the page. The connection should have been super fast. The pages should have loaded instantly.

    But, the biggest problem with the iPad, which I'm sure many of you saw, is it's lack of a Flash player. It's just funny, "let's go to New York Times", "let's go to Time's website", "let me show you how some of the page doesn't load, because you'll only get an icon where that Flash content should be." They used a page that has Flash as an example - hahaha. And did you see how fast he scrolled past it? It's sad; truely a demonstration of nothing new here.

    If I were Apple, I would have focused more on how I could integrate this as a remote control for my home media center (eg. TV, Lights, Stereo). Instead, this news announcement just showed us much of the same. This demonstration just doesn't cut it. I'm curious to see what the new Cortex A9 processors would have done for the iPx products. A dual-core ARM processor might really change the game. Not to mention I think it could put the "10 hour" battery life to shame. Apple should have waited for the better technology, or maybe they are planning on it and just trying to squeeze more out of their customers to the tune of 3G -> 3GS.
    Reply
  • dtm4trix - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    I agree with every point you made but would like to make another point. With a device like this I would like to have access to movies on my network. There is no reason why I should not be able to access this through a device like this, yet there is no network sharing tools or anything to browse a shared network. Also a device this large running with a screen like that should support FLASH!! I noticed how fast he scrolled over the empty spot where the flash content should have been. I chuckled!!!

    Final words to Apple; GET A GRIP. OVER 50% OF WEBSITES USE FLASH OF SOME SORT YOU MORONS. YOU MUST SUPPORT FLASH ON A DEVICE LIKE THIS.
    Reply
  • dotroy - Monday, February 01, 2010 - link

    Where did you get this information that over 50% site uses FLASH ?
    Adobe flash will die because Ajax is better than FLASH and HTML5 is also better than FLASH. A lot of people hate FLASH. Macromedia SOLD to Adobe because they did not see much future in FLASH which they through would bring revolution. SO stop being a MORON !
    Reply
  • - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    I see a problem here; firstly the internet requires input, our experience with touch screen inputs finds interaction is just not fast enough, and texting? And in respect to size, the bigger a device is the more the consumer expects. What exactly do we get that’s different from an iPod? ebooks? What exactly can I do with it, that’s not of the smaller iPod? Apps2 ? Reply
  • UNCjigga - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    I think the problem with the iPad is a little different than just lack of features. First, we need to look at the iPhone. When it first launched, the killer app was the Internet in your pocket. You could now walk around carrying a full HTML browser in the palm of your hand, with connectivity anywhere. This was pretty revolutionary at the time--Opera on WinMo or S60 didn't even come close in performance or ease of use. So what's the killer app for the iPad? IMHO, the iPad is trying to bring new media (web, blogs, streaming video, digital magazines and newsfeeds etc.) into a familiar old media format.

    But the problem is that Apple isn't doing anything revolutionary with the content itself. It's the same content I can browse on my PC for the most part. So why will users settle for a locked down platform with silly limitations (no multitasking, no Flash support?)

    Here are the biggest threats to the iPad:
    - HTML5: Even though Safari will be HTML5 compliant, this standard poses a serious threat to Apple's closed, self-managed content storefronts. Browsers will continue to evolve and the scripting engines will get better and better. As more websites get comfortable with HTML5, the "app" experience will move to the open web and become more accessible to multiple devices. As a developer, would I rather code with multiple SDKs for each device, or write my app once in HTML5 and do the bare minimum of porting possible?
    - Android: You know its a matter of months before Android tablets emerge. They will bring full Flash support, multitasking, and probably a camera or 2. The software won't be as polished as the iPad's initially, but those new releases keep coming.
    - Snapdragon2/Tegra2/Cortex A9/Moorestown: As advanced as Apple's silicon may be, it isn't the only game in town. With all of this powerful mobile silicon and OSes to take advantage (Android, Moblin, WinMo 7 etc.) don't expect the iPad to stay at the forefront of tablet tech for very long.
    Reply

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