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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  • Dex1701 - Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - link

    Yes, I absolutely think that people make knee-jerk decisions when they purchase things based on branding, visual appearance, the fact that their friend "has one", etc. If you don't think this is true I think you should talk to some marketing people about how that works.

    Being able to do SSH is great (I can do that with Android or WinMo too), but that is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, our people that run our email and scheduling systems won't support iPhone because it can't support policy enforcement through Exchange. I can also customize the entire OS and UI of the phone to meet my needs. We have people whose phones look and function COMPLETELY differently depending on what they're using them for and are running the same OS.

    The iPhone SDK is nowhere close to having the kinds of tools available that allow me to develop business apps quickly. WinMo, .NET CF, and Linux have so many more useful development tools and built-in functionality to exploit available out-of-the box than iPhone that the only real reason you'd use iPhone for business applications is because you have a lot of employees that already own one.

    I was at a meeting at a restaurant last week with a colleague and someone from outside the company who had an iPhone. I had my Touch Pro 2 with me (which can dual-boot WinMo and Android...yes, dual-boot). Both parties needed to access resources that weren't on-hand. I switched on the wifi router on my phone, allowing all three of us instant access to my fast HDSPA connection. My colleague and I opened remote desktop on our laptops (I was using a lowly netbook) and had full access to our high-end workstations at the office and our entire office network from the restaurant in seconds. The guy with the iPhone showed us some kind of motorcycle game. We were very impressed.

    WinMo is dead? This just goes to show how out of touch you are with the way businesses use mobile devices. Your comment about "could not do anything significant" enforces that and goes to show that you haven't seen a WinMo device in years. Android is very young, but not that much younger than iPhone, and has the advantage of being completely reconfigurable...I mean, you can completely customize and rebuild the ROM/OS it runs on with a little know-how and minimal effort (in development team terms).

    I'm still waiting for a good argument against using folders. The fact that you can come up with two situations in which an index is a better alternative to folders doesn't refute the fact that a folder hierarchy is better in a million other situations. Again, you're thinking like an end-user rather than an engineer.

    I don't see why you think my comment about Apple's multimedia tools in contradictory. I never said that Apple's products were bad, although I don't doubt that a REALLY devoted Apple fan would hear "in many cases there are reasons to go with other products besides Apple's" would hear, "Apple sucks!" My entire post was in response to the "there's no reason to buy anything but Apple products" tone of your comment. I will say that Apple designs most of their consumer products to force you into proprietary technology, push you into spending money in their online stores (App Store and iTunes, specifically), and generally make more money off of you after the initial purchase. However, the main point I was making is that there are better (and almost always cheaper) alternatives to Apple's products in a lot of situations. The fact that iPhone is a great fit for what you use your phone for doesn't change that. iPhone is a great product...my mother has one. It's just not for me. Power users aren't Apple's primary demographic at the moment, and that's fine.
  • HotFoot - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Maemo 5. I love it.

    Oh yeah... and root access, for those who know what to do with it.
  • vol7ron - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    The one thing that Apple still has me on is the casing. I love the feel of the device, the size, weight, and glass.

    But, like you said, the lack of functionality might move me back to Windows or Android. The funny thing with the Pad is that with all the screen real estate it still only has a 4 column springboard. What a waste.

    That, and the fact that there is no flash player for the browser. Wasn't the "internet in your hand" one of, if not THE, big selling points? What good is a self-claimed internet device, that doesn't deliver the full internet? That is censorship at its worst.
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    I can't think of any recent Apple product that was actually a runaway success on it's first iteration.

    iPod: Needed Windows support, iTunes on Windows, version that didn't cost $399.
    MacBook Pro: First-gen devices got rather hot, hardware problems, didn't initially release with Boot Camp
    Apple TV: Only useful if you purchased all your movie content through iTunes.
    iPhone: $499/599 price point, no 3rd party apps
    iPad: No multi-tasking, no front-facing camera

    And the successful products of today:
    iPod: Best selling version is $149/$199.
    MacBook Pro: Windows support out of the box, long battery life
    iPhone: Prices start at $99, 140,000 3rd party apps

    And the failures:
    Apple TV: Still just a front for the iTunes Store.

    As such, the success/failure of an Apple product is best judged not when it's released, by maybe 1-2 years after the fact.
  • jamesadames12 - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link

  • vol7ron - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link


    But this isn't really a tablet, or a PC. It's just a more functional eBook reader, which the lowest model is still over-priced at $499, though on initial release, I'd say it is much less expensive than I would have thought Apple to price it at. Still the lowest version value should be ~$250 and the upper (64GB version) should be $499. The 3G should be in all devices at no additional cost - the service fees were fine and reasonable, however AT&Ts network should be better.

    As for the device, Apple should have built in some rubber hand grips.
  • hypopraxia - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    Hmmm... Anything not to complain about? First off, you must be smoking one of those funny cigarettes. You know, the ones with crack in them? The price range that you mentioned is ridiculous. The MSRP for current generation iPod Touches are as follows: 32GB for $299, 64GB for $399. The iPad destroys these in every way except for amount of flash memory. At your proposed price points, the iPad encroaches upon the iPod Touch and becomes its direct competitor. Making a direct competitor of yourself is just not good business. As far as the extra charge for the 3G radio, of course it is going to cost more to put more silicon/radios/antennas in the device. To believe otherwise is simply childish and shows one's naïveté. If you want a lower price point, you'd be looking at a subsidy and that locks you into a contract with one of the telcos. And yes, AT&T does have lousy 3G coverage/penetration/reliability (I live 30 minutes outside of a 3G zone), but for heaven's sake, just try to look at the world in a more positive light, people will like you more.

    In other news, flamebaiters rile up blog readers into refuting false logic. Full story at 10.
  • vol7ron - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    "Anything not to complain about?"
    Yes, the casing's form-factor is good. Though, still thicker (.5") and heavier than I'd like, it's a move to almost a perfect size. On the other hand, I think the screen should almost meet the dimensions of the case. Other than that, they kind of blundered on what could be an excellent product - it's just another iPhone/iPod with a bigger screen, the hardware isn't much better.

    "The price range that you mentioned is ridiculous. The MSRP for current generation iPod Touches are as follows: 32GB for $299, 64GB for $399."
    The price that you mentioned is ridiculous. You make a good point: iPods are overpriced. Your logic is flawed if you want to base your price on something that of itself is overpriced. Especially, given the fact that it's almost the same product... and 16GB for $499, do you really think that's worth it? I'm at capacity on my 32GB phone, 16GB is not a lot of space for something that supposed to be more functional.

    "...the iPad encroaches upon the iPod Touch and becomes its direct competitor"
    There are so many reasons why that should not be the case, but based on the functionality (or lack there of) of the iPad, you might be right. The only true thing as of now that sets the two products apart is the fact that the Touch is more mobile.

    "Making a direct competitor of yourself is just not good business."
    Nonsense. It happens everyday - there are so many examples but I'll just list the food industry as one: eg Pepsi/Pepsi Max/Diet Pepsi - as for the computer industry, I would be upset to see Dell with only one laptop option. In this example they are different flavors of a similar product and there could be a synergistic effect that spurts larger demand.

    "of course it is going to cost more to put more silicon/radios/antennas in the device"
    Yeah, except for the fact that less silicon is being used. The fact that they're producing the processors in-house probably makes it a little cheaper too. As for your antennas/radios comment...that's absurd. You must be smoking something if you really think that costs a lot. There are only three things that would be driving the cost of the iPad: 1) the screen - nice touch sensitive screens are $$. 2) The SSD - only because the costs are still high. 3) Research & Development. Other than that, it's all aethetic value, which I'm sure when all is factored together, they could sell the upper model at $499 and still make a pretty profit.

    "If you want a lower price point, you'd be looking at a subsidy and that locks you into a contract with one of the telcos."
    Seriously? Is that what happens to you? You do realize that telecoms provide a service and not the product. When I buy my computer I don't look for a better deal by signing a contract with Verizon or Comcast.

    "just try to look at the world in a more positive light, people will like you more."
    I think people would like you more if you had a higher IQ. You have got to start having an idealistic view on how things should be and not how they are, otherwise the products that we'll be fed will be crap for some time to come. I don't buy crappy products just because they are on the market. I expect more if I'm going to spend my hard-earned dollars. Maybe that's how you should be thinking. Stop thinking that products/services are just $$, instead put them into terms of work. Think about how many hours you'd have to work, or what projects you'd have to complete to make the $$ for that. I put lots of time and energy into what I do and I consider my time spent important.

    Figures that should be:
    iPod Touch - $99 (or do away with it and only sell service-free phones)
    iPhone - $99 + service (minimum starting size 99GB)
    iPad - $199-$699, this ranges the iPad as it is now compared to a fully-functional PC

    You tell me that's wrong, I'll tell you, you have no vision.
  • coldpower27 - Tuesday, February 2, 2010 - link

    This is Apple your talking about here, their profit margins are high. The products they design aren't meant to be cheap.

    Just because you think something should be cheaper, doesn't mean it will happen.

    This is also the first generation of this product mind you, in 1 or 2 generation you might get the 16GB version at 399 USD, which would make it a little more competitive.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, February 2, 2010 - link

    Right. I'm not trying to down the product, per say, but am trying to say that it's not leading up to potential.

    For pricing, I agree with the fact that Apple has high margins. I also feel their hardware meets a certain high quality standard. Regarding the make/casing, there's nothing that appears "cheap" when it comes to any of their products. The cases are in tact, the plastics and glass are strong and durable.

    My big concern with the pricing is that the product is essentially the same as an iPhone/iPod Touch. The OS is using the same framework and aside from it being triple the width and double the height, the casing/screen is the same. The only difference is probably the internal processor (and larger battery?). Mind you, what spurted the price argument for me was the fact that Apple had made a big deal about it in the first place. If you're going to make a selling point out of something, it's going to be put under scrutiny. If they had marked it off at $1K, I wouldn't have made a big deal about how much the iPad is similar to an iPhone and therefore should cost less, instead I would have just written it off as another overpriced Apple product.

    I would think for such a new product that there would be a little more distinction to take advantage of the larger factor. For instance, even the home screen only has a 4 column springboard - there's so much wasted space.

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