As I write this, it is the eve of the Apple iPad launch. You know, that day when everything is supposed to change. I don't know about change, but Apple does have another highly anticipated product ready to hit store shelves on Saturday April 3rd.
If you haven't heard about the new Apple iPad then you must have been hibernating this winter. This is the Apple tablet device that has been so heavily rumored for more than a year. The iPad is not really an iPod, not really a notebook; it's actually something new. Well, not that different. Apple, and most of the tech press, is calling it an appliance.
The iPad looks like an iPod Touch, just bigger. Since it is based on the iPod/iPhone OS, the iPad will run most all of the tens of thousands of iPhone Apps (those that are tied to the iPhone hardware probably will not function). Apple states that there will be some native iPad Apps available on the launch date.
The iPad is set to be THE e-book reader for the future. Books fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, etc. will be an important part of the iPad, along with newspapers and magazines. While periodicals like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Time Magazine have all shown an interest in the iPad, it is not clear who will be available and when. Most all of the periodicals are trying to work out some sort of subscription model, but it's just not clear if this will be something run by Apple, in the iBook Store, or if the publishers will roll their own. It is rumored that The Wall Street Journal will be making a specific iPad App that allows you to get their content. Others could follow suit.
Of course the iPad does most of the same things that the iPhone/Touch does. It is an amazing photo viewer and movie player. It can access the Internet through a WiFi connection or later this month you could get an iPad with cellular 3G data access allowing you to connect practically anywhere AT&T covers. With access to the Internet you now can do Email, Chat, Maps, Stocks, Weather, or just surf using Safari just like the iPhone/Touch don't expect to see Adobe Flash based content.
All this adds up to make the iPad an ideal content device. Just like the first iPod was a music player, the new iPad is an 'everything player'. It's where you will read, listen, watch, play, and surf. But as great as all that sounds, the iPad is still based on a computer chip and thus can work like a computer. Since the iPad has not hit the stores yet, it is still unclear what all the iPad can and cannot do, but there will be plenty of ways to create content.
The iPad does have the ability to work like a notebook. Apple has created iPad versions of their iWork applications, which consists of Keynote (presentations), Numbers (spreadsheet), and Pages (page layout/publishing). They will be available on the App Store for $9.99 each and will be a must for many iPad owners. Other Apps will soon follow allowing you to draw, paint, edit photos, write, chart, track stocks, etc.
Apple has finally stated on their web site that the iPad will work with the Apple, or any other, Bluetooth wireless keyboard. Apple themselves have a keyboard/dock combo unit where you can dock an iPad into a charging stand and have a full notebook style real keyboard. For anyone looking to use an iPad to take notes or even to write full-time, a real keyboard is a must. The onscreen keyboard looks to be an excellent method of text entry, but not for anyone looking to type more than a page of text.
Keynote will most likely be a very popular productivity App for the iPad. After seeing a few online demos of Keynote on the iPad, it looks like it will transform the iPad into a super portable presentation device. One that is super small, lightweight, plus have the ability to edit a presentation on the fly, something you couldn't do on a playback-only device.
The other thing that will be popular on the iPad is gaming. With the larger screen and faster processor, the iPad is like the iPhone/Touch on steroids. The iPhone/Touch is rapidly becoming a major player in portable gaming, the iPad will just step it up a notch or two.
iPad Games cover everything from casual gaming (simple arcade or puzzle games like Tetris, Asteroids, and Bejeweled), sports, and even more ambitious third person shooters. The list of major companies making games for the App Store is huge and still growing. Even the big guns like Electronic Arts, THQ, LucasArts, and Sega, to name a few, are betting big on the iPad gaming market.
Once reviewers have gotten their hands on an iPad for a few days, I am sure that more facts will appear on the workings of the iPad. Unknown at this time is what the VGA video adapter allows you to do. It could allow an external monitor to be attached to the iPad for additional screen space. It could be that it is only for playback of video output, either from the video player or from Apps like Keynote. It just doesn't really specify this on the iPad web site.
One iPad App that I am very interested in is the free Netflix Player App. This App is scheduled to be available on release day. Netflix is a through-the-mail DVD rental service. As part of your Netflix account, you also have access to a large selection of videos that can be streamed over the Internet. Since Safari on the iPad does not have the necessary plug-ins to do this, Netflix has created a stand alone App. Now you can take your Netflix Instant Queue and watch them anywhere you have Internet access, at no additional charge for existing Netflix Unlimited subscribers.
The iPad is coming (actually, by the time this is published it will be here). I doubt there will be the long lines of people waiting outside of the Apple stores Friday night, like when the iPhone was released, but I do know of several people who have preordered theirs. I am pretty sure that Apple will run out at most locations during the first two weeks, which will add up to probably about a quarter of a million iPads.