Hmmmm. So, after all the rumours, Apple have finally announced their new tablet computery thing. It pretty much looks like a very big iPod Touch or iPhone, and will come with WiFi connectivity as standard and a range of capacities going up to 64GB. Or you can pay more money and get it with 3G connectivity. US customers will be able to get a contract-free monthly deal for data that’s not too bad at all, while those of us in that odd little place called “the rest of the world” will have to wait a few months to find out what will be on offer. However, it seems it won’t be tied to any operator, and you’ll be able to pop in any suitable 3G SIM, so there’s the opportunity for operators to compete a bit. Or not.
So, what can it do? It’s going to be a nifty eBook reader – Apple will have their own online bookstore, and you’ll be able to buy books and download them directly to the device. Maximum points for that. You’ll be able to choose the font used for rendering the books, which is nifty. What’s also nifty is that they’re using the more or less standard ePub format rather than anything proprietary, so you’ll be able to get books from elsewhere.
It’ll play video at some HD resolution or other, and from the images I’ve seen, it looks like a nice screen for viewing on. Email and web browsing work in a scaled-up iPhone kind of way, which actually looks pretty good. You’ll even be able to get special versions of the iWork productivity apps at a US price of $10 each, which might or might not be useful. Dunno.
Games will be a major feature, but I’m not really that interested, so I’ll pass over that.
Text input is through a large on-screen keyboard, or if you’re sitting down at a desk, you can dock an optional keyboard. Not at all sure about that – I see the iPad as an on the train, sitting in a cafe kind of thing. If you’re at a proper desk, why not use your real computer?
For me, it comes down to content. They’re making a big thing about the New York Times being on the device, and it does indeed look good – a proper representation of a newspaper with extras like embedded video. If the Guardian were to join in, I could definitely be interested – I’d be more likely to buy an electronic subscription than to buy dead trees any more than the once a week I do now. If some of the magazines I buy, read once and recycle moved to this kind of device, I’d be quite happy, too.
Pricing – well, I’ve only seen US prices, so convert to pounds and add a random percentage to get an idea of what we’ll be expected to pay. For a model with WiFi only and 16GB storage, US customers will pay $499 (maybe around £350, allowing for the usually higher UK prices), which by Apple standards is very cheap indeed. For the top-end model with 64GB storage and 3G capability, the price is a less friendly $829 (maybe around £600), which is also not too bad.
Well, there’s no rush. WiFi models will be available in 60 days, with the 3G models following 30 days after that. And by then, the Newcastle Apple Store should have opened, so I’ll have the chance to have a proper play with one before I make any rash spending decisions…