Apple Delivers a Cool Tool

After a gestation longer than an elephant, speculation characterized by preposterous fantasies, and a delivery witnessed by millions, Apple finally brought forth a bouncing baby iPad. Not since the Essenes have such Messianic hopes and dreams been cherished, and whether they will be fulfilled remains to be seen after technicians take it apart and consumers render their verdict. Nevertheless, it seemed difficult for tech pundits to resist the temptation to kneel before it.

Here for instance is what Gizmodo’s blogger had to say:

  • The guts: It’s a half-inch thick—just a hair thicker than the iPhone, for reference—and weighs 1.5 pounds…It’s also loaded with 802.11 n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a 30-pin iPod connector, a speaker, a microphone, an accelerometer and a compass.
  • It’s substantial but surprisingly light. Easy to grip. Beautiful. Rigid. Starkly designed. The glass is a little rubbery but it could be my sweaty hands. And it’s fasssstttt.
  • Apple didn’t really sell this point, but it’s the single biggest benefit of the iPad: speed. It feels at least a generation faster than the iPhone 3GS. Lags and waits are gone, and the OS and apps respond just as quickly as you’d hope. Rotating between portrait and landscape modes, especially, is where this new horsepower manifests in the OS.
  • iBooks: It’s an optical illusion, but just seeing the depth of pages makes the iBook app feel more like a book than a Kindle ever did for me. The text is sharp, and while the screen is bright, it doesn’t seem to strains the eyes—but time will tell on that.
  • Pictures: Pinch, zoom, whatever—like we said, it’s fast—the photo app is faster that iPhoto performs on my aging Core2Duo laptop.
  • Apps: Apps can play in their native resolution, or be 2x uprezzed for the screen. How does it look? An ATV game we tried actually looked pretty good—limited more by its base polygon count than the scaling process itself. Bottom line: it’s about as elegant solution as Apple could have offered, even if that graphics won’t be razor sharp.
  • Browsing: Over Wi-Fi, Gizmodo loaded quickly. The 9.7-inch screen is an excellent size for reading the site. You can pinch zoom, but you won’t need to. Of course, on such a pretty web browsing experience, not having Flash makes the big, empty video boxes in the middle of a page is pretty disappointing. Put differently, the fatal flaw of Apple’s mobile browser has never been more apparent.

For these features and many more, the $499 price is universally acclaimed to be a huge bargain for this seamless blend of computer, game and movie player, e-book readers, and more. As to the battery, about which many expressed the gravest skepticism, Apple claims it will run for ten hours even with intense use such as movies. If you don’t like what they’re showing on your flight to Australia, load your iPad up with half a dozen films and you’ll be there in no time.

To see Gizmodo’s hands-on test-drive, click here. You can also view an absolute feeding-frenzy of comments, blogs, tweets, and eructations. Be careful not to stick your hand in there: it will be bitten off.

As for e-books and newspapers, Publishers Weekly‘s Calvin Reid writes: “The device was demoed with newspaper content from the New York Times and supports video and audio embedded in the content. Most importantly, the iPad will support the ePub e-book standard and Apple has developed its own e-reader software, iBooks, and will also launch an iBookstore. E-book pricing is reported to be in the $15 range.” If you plan to write a book on iPad instead of reading one, there is both a virtual keyboard (left) and a pull-out.

Now that iPad is born there doesn’t seem to be much left to live for. But we will carry on as best we can, comforting ourselves with the knowledge that the Apple has scaled a pinnacle from which the view of the digital future is truly intoxicating.

Richard Curtis

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