BitDepth 716 - February 02

Apple introduces a tablet PC and the world goes crazy. What's in the high-tech slab of glass and aluminium?
The tablet from Mt Apple

Apple’s new iPad. Photo courtesy Apple.

Give Apple’s Steve Jobs this, at least. He had a sense of humour about the hype surrounding his company’s much anticipated slate sized PC at the product’s launch on Wednesday last week. The first slide of his presentation placed an etching of a righteous Moses next to a quote from the Wall Street Journal.
“The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet,” the text read, “it had some commandments written on it.”

Here’s the thing though. The product Apple introduced wasn’t surprising in the least. It was a logical extension of everything the company has done before with its technologies, adding only a few surprising quirks.
The tablet, dubbed with surprising mediocrity,
the iPad, is basically a scaled up iPod Touch. You can add 3G connectivity to for an extra US$130.

The big surprises?
The one gigahertz chip in the device as designed and made by Apple, the new A4 chip representing the first fruit of the company’s purchase of the semiconductor design company PA Semi in April 2008.
The other shock was the price, as Apple confounded the predictions of pre-announcement speculators with a base price of US$499 for the baseline model of the iPad product line.

The device fulfils most of the features floated on online wish lists. There’s a built-in microphone and speaker, 802.11 WiFI and Bluetooth 2.1, ten hours of battery life while watching video and a month’s worth of standby power.
Game developers took the stage after Jobs’ presentation to demonstrate the gaming capabilities of the device, with EA’s Travis Boatman demonstrating the popular Need for Speed racing game.
Television shows and movies play back seamlessly on the device, but the in-plane switching (IPS) display is sized like a sheet of paper, the same aspect ratio as a regular television screen (when you rotate it to horizontal mode), so widescreen content plays with black bands on the top and bottom.

Having hit all the expectations of potential users hoping for a larger iPod Touch, including e-mail and web browsing, Apple introduced the iBooks store and application, which fired a decisive shot across the bow of Amazon’s Kindle. If you like colour with your book, you can recalibrate that shot to amidships.
The horsepower humming in the half-inch thick device adds pretty flourishes to the virtual book pages, making them look more like virtual facsimiles of a paper document.

Apple announced online distribution deals with Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette for popular books and school texts. The device can load books in the open EPub format and users can choose different fonts and font sizes.

What Jobs described as “standing on Amazon’s shoulders and going further” was beginning to look, by now, more like a boot heel on the Kindle creator’s throat.
The iPad runs applications from the company’s App Store and can scale their smaller graphics to fill the screen, but developers can work with a revised development kit to adapt their software to the new device.

In a compelling bit of marketing sleight of hand, iPad users, on launch, have access to more than a hundred thousand applications on Apple’s online store and anyone who has ever used an iPhone or iPod Touch already knows how to use the device.
In 60 days, Apple plans to ship the iPad, asking US$499 for the 16GB base model 32GB for $599, 64GB for $699. There’s a simple dock for US$39, a keyboard dock for $69 but the device will pair with any Bluetooth keyboard.
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