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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  • The0ne - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link

    What the hell is wrong with Apple product reviews on this site. This garbage review is littered with positive adjectives for the iPad. Justifications are made to convince us that Apple is indeed doing something is "needed" and that we should want. Please spare us your excitement for the product and your continued Apple faboy-ism and TRY to keep the technology review in perspective.

    Just a few points,
    1. While there are no great tablet laptops out there due to the lack of a good graphics card, they do work good as a tablet PC. In fact, Windows 7 will boost the speed of most of them in addition to handling the graphics a little better.

    2. If I'm not mistaken, and I'm not on this, Anand was a big supporter of Netbooks advocating their place and for consumers to buy and buy. In almost every single Anand netbook review I have had to constantly say "A netbook should not cost more than $399 or else you can get a laptop instead." So now that iPAD is out, we don't need netbooks because their SSD is too costly compared to the measly flash memory?

    Screw it, I'm just going to go all out and cite quotations to refute from the review. This sht has to stop Anand!

    “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.”

    So all the rave about netbooks and other devices count for squat in your view, although reviews here say otherwise. And iPad is the answer you’re seeking to be making this kind of statement? And oversize iPod? Really?

    “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.”

    What is it that you actually want that smartphones, portable laptops, netbook, tablets don’t already offer that CAN read, run app, plus a host of other tasks? If you want something that does less and looks new, I can design you one running AmigaOS, because you know…we all like multitasking. We ARE talking about web surfing, emails, reading books and not intensive CPU/graphic tasks.

    “Far more often we see Apple perfecting a particular device rather than diving head first into a new market segment.”

    I don’t mind that you love what Apple products does and I can’t say I blame you entirely. But the use of “perfection” should be reserve or rather use sparingly in a review. The iPad is not a perfection of anything.. In retrospect, products can and will always be improved upon hence perfection is a hopeless statement. And if improving upon your own products garners perfection as you so eloquently used here, they why don’t we see that same comments from other products, especially those that have actually made leaps and bounds in terms of improvements?

    “Today my issue with the iPhone (and netbooks for that matter) is that they are very limited when it comes to productivity. I don’t have a good solution if I need the performance, usability and capabilities of my notebook, but want something lighter to carry around with me. You could always get a CULV notebook or from Apple something like the MacBook Air, but that’s still a notebook. There is no perfect blend of notebook functionality with smartphone portability. If the iPad can achieve that, at least in the same manner that the iPhone did for smartphones, then I will consider it worth the hype.”

    I’m actually in the same boat as you for finding that perfect blend. I want a ultra-ultra light, durable, nice looking, powerful in all processing functions, and that can transform itself from a tiny cube, which fits in my pocket, into a ultra-ultra thin, flexible, and highly visible screen view from all direction, including from 100 miles away AND recharges itself with little or not light source but on dark energy.

    Until that happens, the choices you’ve outline will suit your need whether you like it light, PC based for the functions, tablet, smartphones, PMP, etc. A pound more is not going to kill you. half and inch thicker is not going to kill you. Half a second longer in whatever task is not going to kill you.

    Therefore, the iPAD is not going to solve your needs nor mind and you know this. There isn’t anything revolutionary new technically. It is a preference and an assumption, and excitement, on your part that drives you to make such bais statements. IMO of course.

    “It remains to be seen whether or not it’s actually comfortable to hold a 1.5 lbs tablet while you type on it. Although Apple has a couple of accessories that look to address that issue:”

    This is just a stupid statement. Nothing to it. You are questioning whether the 1.5lbs tablet would be comfortable and yet claim Apple will address that with accessories. Firstly, that would add more weight. Secondly, more space. And finally, from the four images used does it look like it would be comfortable? Again, base on your comment of being able to hold it comfortably while you type. I stress HOLD and COMFORT here.

    “We need things like Photoshop for the iPad. Dare I say that we even need a port of Microsoft Office?”

    Just wow. I would love for that to happen myself but I’m not entirely sure the device is capable unless the apps are ported and coded efficiently. I highly doubt it. Again, is there a problem with netbooks, small notebooks, tablets that is so turning you off that you have to resort to the iPad? I can understand the need for “better” but you’re giving much too much praise over iPad.

    “This is horribly unfortunate and it means that anyone with existing content not in a friendly format will have to convert it before it’ll play on the iPad. While Apple likes to assume the world revolves around it, the truth is it just doesn’t. This is great for folks who already watch movies on their iPhones and not so great for those who don’t. Luckily with a good enough desktop, transcoding movies to your iPad shouldn’t be too painful.”

    One of the reasons NOT to get a iPad. I am not going to waste countless hours to convert all my HD videos just so I can play on this. Why would you do such a horrible thing to yourself when a netbook/tablet/notebook could play it without any conversion? Install the damn drivers and be done. But yes you are right we are “LUCKY” because “Luckily with a good enough desktop, transcoding movies to your iPad shouldn’t be too painful.”

    So the average user should know just how they should go about converting videos now. Very good luck with that if they are not PC enthusiasts with a decent/good PC setup.

    “There’s no camera on the device so I’m assuming there’s no video encoding support either. You can get rid of any image processing as well. In order to hit that $499 price point with such an attractive device Apple most likely had to cut corners wherever possible.”

    While I don’t fully disagree with you on this, you do realize other products such as smartphones/netbooks/tablets/notebooks do have the capabilities and a lot more. Yes of course you do. So aside from it being “Attractive” to hit its $499 price point, is there any other reason why you think they didn’t? The thing is rectangular and flat. The design, and being Apple, may instill a huge margin on the product but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly very attractive. If they can offer 3G and microSD slot, they could have had options for a camera...which is in itself tiny mind you.

    “Apple never entered the netbook market because it believed the devices weren’t very good. I’d tend to agree. You can get better performance and similar size out of a CULV notebook if you’re looking for an actual notebook. The netbook makes sense if you are using it as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th machine - but then who’s to say that you need to stick with the same form factor as a notebook?”

    I think you meant to say “actual netbook” or else the whole concept fails. But if you did, you had already bashed both the CULV and netbooks in your opening comments. And again, must I remind you and everyone else that Anand has praised many netbooks in their reviews. If they are not very good to begin with, because God forbid Apple thinks so and utterly refuses to enter the market >.>, they why bother reviewing them in the first place or give them good reviews? You knew that Apple knew that netbooks, and quite possibly e-readers, were not very good? You’re one hell of a psychic.

    “Intel’s Atom processor is more than fast enough for the tasks you’d do on a netbook. The issue is that the OS and its applications running on netbooks are optimized for a class of processor that’s many times faster than Atom.

    The iPad isn’t revolutionary, it simply takes an OS tailored to the power of the machine and pairs it with hardware that doesn’t look or feel like a netbook. Assuming that browsing the web, sending emails, using apps and watching videos is as fast on the iPad as it is on an Atom based netbook, Apple will have effectively capped the price of netbooks at $499. And to be honest, there’s no reason netbooks should ever approach that price to begin with”

    Urgh. You just bashed netbooks for not being enough for you to do your tasks! and yet confirm that if only used for surfing, emails, and small apps it’s great. Then the price, its $100 more than what I have been voicing of netbooks but that’s fine. But then again, your comments are NOT consistent with the netbook reviews on the site.

    “OS tailored to the power of the machine and pairs it with hardware that doesn’t look or feel like a netbook”

    I somehow take offense to this statement. It is as if you are implying Apple has perfectly coded the OS to run on their hardware. How can one say that when he/she has no clue about the coding that went into the OS to begin with? You are making the implication base on your “use” of their devices, nothing more. Correct me if I’m mistaken here.

    And while that may be true to some degree it is still the same OS used on the phones and you did have issues and/or dislikes with it. Correct me if I’m mistaken here as well. Multitasking IS a nice feature if it’s coded and works properly. Need I remind you of the Amiga multasking back in the 80’s. That is multitasking.

    In addition, you make it sound like the iPad is the best thing and others are not because iPad doesn’t look or feel like a netbook? This is a review? This is still a technical site is it not?

    “A device that slots in between a smartphone and a notebook shouldn't look too much like either device. It needs to borrow from the strengths of both and bundle them in an attractive package”

    While that is also true to some extent, you make it sound like the iPad HAS to be different. No, it doesn’t. Technically, it really is just another tablet due to the technologies available. More specifically, it is a tablet PC that has some new features and limited and absent features that are currently on tablet PCs. So while it brings some new features it lacks many, many, many others. Productivity is a big decision for you and me both. I already know I can’t use this for most of my daily business task such as technical reports, manufacturing processes, etc.

    Please don’t try to persuade readers that iPad is something entirely new and different. It is not. It is in some form a tone down or limited form of a tablet PC.

    That’s all I have to say, flame away.
  • Dazex - Friday, February 5, 2010 - link

    Thanks for taking the time to point our your thoughts. The length of your post suggest that you put a lot of thought into it. But reading through it, I feel you are off based a bit. This is definitely not intended as a flame at you so please don't take it as such.

    Please keep in mind that this article is not a review at all like you addressed it as. It is merely Anand's thoughts' on the device given the release day info. A review would definitely mean that Anand has one in his lab and have put it through it's paces. And from every review that Anand has actually done, his review are usually very well thought out.

    Additionally, sometimes I feel like you are reading something different in the article than what is actually written. Take for example your point on what was written by Anand as quoted here:

    “Far more often we see Apple perfecting a particular device rather than diving head first into a new market segment.”

    You then rebut that as Anand claiming the device is "perfection" and rebutted as such. Not sure about you, but when I do something, I do so with an attempt of perfecting it. Whether it be my art or my growth in life. But I would be the first to say I have never reach "perfection." It's totally two different meaning. As you later said it best in that "products can and will always be improved upon hence perfection is a hopeless statement" which seems to be that is what Anand claim Apple to be trying to achieve.

    In the end, it's definitely another gadget/tool. It's up to us human to make of use of it the way we see fit. I actually agree with Anand on many of his points. I am not an Apple fanboi at all. I simply select the computer, device that I feel fit my needs. The iPad does fit a niche that I was not able to find before Apple's announcement. Though similar to a larger iPod Touch, in the application that I have in mind for it...it really isn't. Please keep an open mind.

    I also know of medical staff and those on forums that have a great deal of interest in the iPad's announcement. Because they have been using clunky tablet PCs that cost thousands of dollars. The iPad with the right software, is affordable and just the right form factor for their needs and a positive step towards the government's requirement for electronic medical record. And in this usage scenario, where like a clipboard...the size and weight makes a huge difference in usability, every ounce of weight matters.

    There's a whole lot of people out there in the world. Companies are gonna make products and claim they are the best. Don't get so emotionally invested in their claim. If the product suits you, great. If not, hope that another company can get it right and support them. It's really simple as that.
  • dotroy - Friday, February 5, 2010 - link

    Very well said ...Thanks. I just want to ask one question. I like to read before I go to bed and I browse in my small iPhone screen until I fall asleep. I have a laptop but when you are in bed, it is difficult to just lay on bed and read. iPad will be perfect for my need, to be able to do some browsing ..some simple task.
  • o2bfree - Thursday, February 4, 2010 - link

    Are you a spammer or a troll or both? Do you work for Google? Or maybe a netbook manufacturer?

    Why do you insult Anand over the iPad?
  • The0ne - Thursday, February 4, 2010 - link

    Fck off troll. If you bother to read Anands review of netbooks, macbooks and such if is a distasteful review. Refute what I have said and I'll bother to talk to you.

    In the meantime, here's a funny youtube about ipad that one should enjoy.


  • o2bfree - Thursday, February 4, 2010 - link

    Well you've shown yourself to be a complete idiot... and there's no refuting that : - )
  • andrihb - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link

    Not at all, I rather enjoyed that
  • The0ne - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link

    Potential camera slot that in iPad for the curious


  • nedjinski - Sunday, January 31, 2010 - link

    you hit the proverbial nail on the head when you said it's all about productivity.
    as it is, it's a tablet reader. why you would spend $200-$500 more than a Kindle costs to read a book is beyond me. fanboys would I guess. but right now it's an expensive toy.
    I think apple mis-read the market here. either it's going to be a reader, or it's going to be a tablet computer. if it's going to be a real computer it needs more stuff.
    dell has the right idea going here. look at the mini 5. 3G, GSM, GPS, Voip, WiFi, Bluetooth, 2 cameras, Flash, mutitasking, on Android 2.0.
    if the iPad had all those functions it would be a slam dunk and we would be bowing at the alter of the Benevolent Dictator.
    as it is we're just saying ho hum . . . .
  • o2bfree - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link


    Wow your post is full of inaccuracies! You even got the price of the Kindle wrong. :-) Amazon sells the Kindle DX (9.7 inch screen) at $489. The iPad costs $499. That means the iPad only costs $10 more than the comparable Kindle, not $200-$500 as you described.

    I wonder what motivated you to write all that nonsense... I guess you must hate Apple!

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