Apple Inc. started taking preorders for its tablet computer, the iPad, which is set to arrive in Wi-Fi-only form on April 3. Versions with embedded 3G will arrive later in the month.
Customers can order iPads online or reserve them for pick-up at the Apple store. According to Apple Insider, the stores will only stock as many as are pre-ordered; online buyers can reserve only two of the hot devices.
The 3G plan from AT&T is prepaid and activated over the air, right on the device. It costs $15 for 250MB of data per month and $30 for unlimited data, something Steve Jobs called a “real breakthrough” in pricing. Those reaching their 250MB limit will get a notification on-screen for 20 percent, 10 percent and 0 percent bandwidth left; users will be prompted to order more capacity, which they can do right from the device.
The iPad, which features a 9.7-inch touchscreen, a 1GHz processor and 10 hours of battery life, will be sold in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi+3G versions at Apple Stores and online. Jobs also touted the affordability of the hardware: The Wi-Fi-only models cost $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. 3G models cost $130 more, making the pricing $629, $729 and $829, respectively.
Apple is certainly gearing up for the launch; television commercials, similar to those for the iPod Touch and the iPhone, have started running, ratcheting the buzz up even further.
The device, though hotly anticipated, might end up being more of an e-reader than anything else. It runs on the iPhone OS, rather than Mac OS X, which means that while iPhone apps will run on it, it is also subject to the same limitations of the iPhone: no Flash support and no multitasking. It also has limited disk space, lacks voice capability and there’s no camera. That makes it an inappropriate replacement for a home computer, and takes it out of the smartphone category entirely.
“The iPad is an additive,” Jeff Orr, an analyst at ABI Research told xchange when the device launched. “It’s not as applicable as a mobile phone every young adult wants to carry with them. It’s not your home computer. It’s for those that say, I have this need to have quick access to things in my lifestyle.”
It will be used for applications like having a common family calendar or phonebook, or bolstering more productivity in home with, say, step-by-step videos in the kitchen. It will sit on a coffee table so that users can pull in notes on the State of the Union address as they watch. It’s about different forms of content publishing from iTunes, he App Store or iBookstore – be it an e-book, magazine, newspaper, or rich media like audio and video.
And with about 30 percent of households in the U.S. using Wi-Fi, he said, it’s likely the target audience for the iPad will be leveraging an 802.11 connection rather than 3G.
In other words, the general message of the iPad is not as a connected device, particularly, but rather as another way to access developer offerings. And conversely, there is now a greater opportunity for the content ecosystem already established by Apple – giving developers a change to reach beyond the 75 million iPod Touch and iPhone users that for now make up Apple’s total available market.