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Apple iPad: A stretch iPod touch with a business model


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner, Network World
February 02, 2010 11:44 AM ET


Two years ago I wrote about what I'd like to see in an Apple tablet. Of the 21 features I listed, the Apple iPad seems to meet or come close to 14 of them. Not too bad.


But now that I see the iPad, I'm not satisfied. However, I do think that it is far too early to tell if the iPad, or the iPad Pro that I hope will soon be announced, is an actual game changer like the iPod and iPhone have been. Right now the iPad looks like a stretch iPod touch with a business model.


I'm not someone who buys everything that Apple makes. I have managed to skip a few products, and I think the iPad will be one of those.


That said, I do think the iPad, or maybe its business model, is important in the evolution of how people deal with the Internet.


A quick survey of the post-announcement iPad reviews produces the same sort of generally negative pundit environment that many Apple products get from the people, like me, who are paid to articulate an opinion. It seems that negative opinions sell better than positive ones, and that observation is not limited to technology.


Observers criticized the first iPod (too expensive, no replaceable battery), the first iPhone (no keyboard, only AT&T) and the Macbook Air (no connections). The litany continues with the iPad: too expensive (even though it will cost half of what many pundits thought it would); no camera for video chat (even though a camera on a lap-held computer would be anything but steady); using AT&T (even though the iPad is not locked and can be supported by any other hardware-compatible carriers, such as T-Mobile in the United States); no iPhone (even though Apple and AT&T are now permitting VoIP calls over 3G  as well as Wi-Fi); no GPS (even though the Apple location determination via Wi-Fi access point ID is good enough for many location-based applications); no USB or Ethernet (even though you can get USB through the docking connector); no multitasking (even though that is part of what produces a 10-hour batter life); and the iPad is not open and has to use the Apple App Store (with only 140,000 applications).


None of these seems to be all that big a deal if people use the iPad for what it seems to be designed for - a general purpose device that can do a very good job with the presentation of media and of the Internet, with a second-to-none user interface -- and maybe a little game playing, document viewing and editing thrown in. (See "Special-purpose device in a general-purpose world".)


In retrospect, the most important part of the iPod is the iTunes business model, which changed the basic way music is sold. A model that forced the music companies to offer music in a way that their customers wanted -- with digital rights management but with the DRM designed not to be visible to most users.


The most important part of the iPad may be the business model around newspapers and books. But Apple is not forcing publishers into doing things that the customer wants. The publishers can set their own prices, and you can be sure they will set prices and restrictions that will cause most potential customers to ignore the offerings. They will shoot themselves in the foot but may, in the long run, learn.


I think that the iPad has a lot of potential as is. It may take a while --bringing clue to copyright holders is a very slow process -- yet Apple will sell a lot of these devices. As for me, I'm waiting for the iPad Pro that will run Snow Leopard -- and thus be a real computer.


Disclaimer: I have not talked to anyone at Harvard about the iPad so have no idea if anyone at the university is paying attention to it. So the above review and desire is mine.


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