After all the fevered buildup, we now know the actual details of Apple's iPad tablet. Probably not surprisingly, it doesn't quite live up to all of the pre-release hype and speculation (including my own). But it still appears to be a remarkable device that, in its first generation, has the potential to change a few corners of the media world. And that's just the beginning.
Out of the box, the iPad is a very interesting reading device. Lying flat on a desk or table, it can mimic a lot of the readability and convenience of print (and adds a lot of bells and whistles). It makes the Kindle look like an antique. It's light and easily portable. The iPhone, despite its small screen, isn't a bad reading device, and the iPad greatly expands on that. Does it portend a whole new business model for newspapers and magazines? Not at first glance. But you'll be able to buy books on it, and maybe that will extend to periodicals in same way. For sure, advertising will look a whole lot better on it.
The iPad seems to have real potential as a portable movie and TV viewer, with a screen much larger than most current portable devices and a form factor much more comfortable than watching a movie on a laptop. It's easy to imagine curling up with a movie on the iPad.
Of course, the iPad runs most iPhone apps, on a bigger screen, and that's a real positive, given the massive iPhone app ecosystem. The development of iPad-specific apps that take advantage of the larger screen will make it even more valuable. It also looks like a pretty good laptop substitute--indeed, perhaps the best description of the iPad at this point is that it's the world's slickest netbook computer.
Not visible yet, at least in this version: more integration with large-screen video and movie devices, easy connectivity to projectors, printers and other peripherals, and a built-in camera that could make it a great portable video-conferencing and Skype device. Others have pointed out additional shortcomings.
But hey, this is Version 1. Just a couple of years ago, the original iPhone had its own limitations, and over time it added a rich set of features and capabilities—apps, for instance, didn't come along for the first year or so, and a video camera and good GPS were second-generation upgrades. So we'll have to see how the iPad evolves. It looks like a very nice product now, at surprisingly reasonable price points. Version 2.0 could be a real killer.
Do I want one? (Everybody asks!) Are you kidding? I've already got my name on the waiting list. I can't wait to get my hands on it. And every media company should feel the same way--and be thinking about how to develop new kinds of products for this very interesting new type of device.