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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  • damolol - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    Apart from multitasking the other deal breaker was being able to integrate the device into my existing network. Unless its able to stream and play my avi content then its useless for me.

    Hopefully the people who created air video will port it to the tablet?
    Reply
  • araczynski - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    with all the imposed limitations on this, its screaming for a jailbreak. once a good one is out, this thing will be useable.

    right now its made directly for the soccer moms of the world.

    i want to like this, but it will never replace my ipod touch due to lack of any portability, and having 3 consoles and a gaming pc at home, this would never get any gaming use.

    basically a dust collector like the wii at my house.

    but hey, i'm sure millions will buy into it. all the more power to them, i'm sure next year they'll include a bunch of intentionally omitted features (camera/etc) and milk another bunch of people, then a year later they'll introduce a better processor and probably make it slimmer as well.

    so anyway, please, go ahead and buy, so they can make the better ones sooner.
    Reply
  • medi01 - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    No comparison to HP Slate eh? Reply
  • totenkopf - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    Seriously? Starting at $500 for that feature set? It really needs a pair of knobs on the front... because right now my nephews Etch A Sketch is looking like a more compelling media device. "To delete a file just hold the iPad upside down and and activate the 'iShake' feature. Remember to shoot yourself in the face when you are finished."

    Explain to me just one more time, Anand, why I would not rather have both a netbook AND an touch/zuneHD 16gb for close to that price. That thing is the same size as my Eee's screen! It's amazing! ...that my Eee can hold up its own screen while I relax with my BT mouse in one hand and my beer in the other.

    Also, I'm sick of this whole "there's an app for that" mantra. Thanks, we know there is an app for that... PC users have been downloading and installing their choice of purpose built freeware on demand in under 10 minutes for a little while now... how did Jobs turn this into some kind of epiphany? Oh right, because it is relatively new for Apple. The thing is, Flash is one of those things "computers" ought to do natively. Speaking of things devices like this ought to do, I WOULD download an app that allowed me to multitask, but I'm listening to music right now.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, February 02, 2010 - link

    This basic obversation clearly makes the vital killing blow against the iPad. You can drink a beer whilst using a netbook. Reply
  • 5150Joker - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    When the iPhone first surfaced and the details made known, I was excited! The smooth touch interface and the (nearly) fully functional browser made it an attractive device. Now fast forward several years later, Apple has refined the OS and upgraded the processor so that the latest 3GS is a pleasure to use.

    This iPad doesn't instill any of that excitement in me. The lack of flash for a large device such as this one is off putting for streaming video (e.g. Hulu), no multitasking is okay for an iPhone but not this. Also, as Anand mentioned, having to encode movies specifically for the iPad will be a pain and the price tag isn't very attractive for such a limited device that operates at 1024x768. I also think this device needs some sort of mouse control button similar to the ones used by Lenovo/IBM. If you make a typo or need to correct a webpage URL, using your fingers is cumbersome.

    Personally, I'm more excited about 11.6" notebooks from Alienware (M11x) that do everything one could ask and are in a very portable form factor. The iPad will sell like crazy because it has an Apple logo on it but for all intents and purposes, it's overpriced and lacks function.
    Reply
  • afkrotch - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    I don't see this as being a revolutionary product. Nor do I see it as a new product fitting a new market. It's already been done.

    Ever look at the Archos 5 (5" screen) or Archos 7 (7" screen)? It does exactly what the iPad is going to do. The difference though, is the iPad is going to get a lot more apps in the future. They get to push their product based on their name, cause of the successes of the iPod and iPhone.

    I'm not saying the iPad won't be a success, nor am I saying it'll be a failure. Simply just saying there's already a product that does the same thing, is more feature rich, and supports a lot more media formats. Archos's little PMP has already evolved into what is currently the iPad and has been like that for a while now.
    Reply
  • dch1958 - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    I have an iPhone and I like it. ... like it, not love it.

    Some of the things it won't do still astonish me. (At least, I can do SMS now instead of just text.) Still, it's a phone. I can give it a pass on some of that. Things like having to interupt Pandora when my wife sends me a text message are annoying - particularly annoying since some level of multitasking is available (e.g., iPod functionality can start bake up). But, again, it's a phone.

    The (unfortunately named) iPad, on the other hand, feels like it should be something more. The lack of multitasking is a major oversight in my opinion. And, regardless of your opinion of Flash, it's pretty ubiquitous on the web. What I see here are examples of corporate stubborness on Apple's part.

    The lack of a camera seems like a huge lost opportunity to me. The form factor of this thing practically screams portable video conferencing.

    I've read plenty of other reviews citing other omissions (e.g., SD capatility, printing, wireless sync capability, no stylus, etc.).

    I've read a lot about it because I am genuinely interested in it as a technology. But, these issues really give me pause when it comes to plopping down my cash for one. I think Apple has done a good job (no pun intended) with what they've got. I see the iPad becoming a dominant technology for digital reading (particularly text books). The addition of iWorks apps is good too. And, all the stuff that's right about the iPhone is there too.

    The iPad just misses the mark in some ways that surprise me - just like my iPhone did. And yet, it seems like the iPad should've been a bit more capable.
    Reply
  • afkrotch - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    I can see the iPad as being good for digital mags, newspapers, or books. So long as you aren't going to be reading for long amounts of time. Which so happens to be majority of the public, but I think the price is going to kill it in that regard. Not when an iPod Touch or iPhone can do the same.

    I can easily sit down and read a book, hours on end. Eye strain on an lcd is horrid. That's why I've gone to a Sony eReader and paired it up with my netbook. I also sport a Zen X-Fi2 (love drag-and-drop) and PSP. When I need more power, I also have a 12.1" laptop.

    For me, the iPad has no home. For others, it may easily fit in their homes. We won't know if it'll be successful or not, but as of right now, I'm leaning towards the latter.
    Reply
  • ph3412b07 - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    I get it, they're somewhere in between smartphones and netbooks...but why is the pricing more expensive, functionality worse, mediocre battery life, no handwriting recognition, no Flash...etc. Kindle is a very simple eBook device...but can also get a WEEK of functional battery life. what's the point of long standby life?

    At this point I'm in doubt of productivity. I expect the true motive behind this is eBook support, and revenue generated from iPad specific software. Steve wants to grab some of Amazon's fat profit.
    Reply

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