Apple’s new tablet computer was unveiled yesterday. It seems to really be a sort of super-Kindle, something that can download books and newspapers, as well as lots of other iPhone-like applications.
After months of hype and rumour-mongering that only seemed to get more intense the more tight-lipped Apple executives became, Jobs stepped on to a San Francisco stage yesterday to declare the opening of a whole new category of electronic device. Halfway between a smartphone and a portable computer, the touchscreen-operated iPad will provide a whole new way to buy books and newspapers, play games, watch films and TV shows and surf the web, he said.
“We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product,” he said. “It's so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone.”
Apple is confident the iPad will escape the fate of previous attempts at tablet computers – including the company's own Newton device, launched with a fanfare in 1993 – now that so many more applications are available to enrich the device. Like the iPhone before it, the iPad will cause “another gold rush for app developers”, Jobs predicted.
And he also yesterday launched the iBookstore, from where users can quickly and easily download electronic books to read on the device. Gallantly, Jobs said he was “standing on the shoulders” of Amazon, which has pioneered the e-reader with its Kindle device, but commentators are already predicting that limited-function e-readers face a dangerous new competitive threat from the iPad. Unlike on the first generation of e-readers, the new device can feature colour photos and video, if authors wish. Certainly publishers lined up to support the Apple debut. Simon & Schuster, Rupert Murdoch's Harper Collins, and Macmillan were among those immediately committing to sell books for the iPad.
The hopes of many media executives are pinned on the iPad, and other similar tablet devices promised by PC manufacturers this year, since they offer an opportunity to replace the declining readership of newspapers and magazines with new subscribers to bespoke applications for the devices, opening up a second chance to charge for digital content that is currently given away for free on websites. The New York Times was among the companies called to the stage to promote a dedicated iPad app yesterday, saying it would offer a more newspaper-like experience than anything that has been created for a smartphone.
Versions of the new device have 16GB, 3GB and 64GB of memory, with or without 3G wireless service on top of the standard wi-fi internet connectivity. Prices will range from $499 to $829 in the US, and the first versions will go on sale in 60 days.
Do you think it will kill Kindle? Do you think it will save journalism and the publishing industry by letting them continue their subscriptions and sales, only without paper? Do you want one? Are you going to get one?