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Worth the hype?
[February 08, 2010]

Worth the hype?


Feb 08, 2010 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- You know something's big when it overshadows a presidential address. Nearly two weeks ago, Apple unveiled its new iPad tablet in San Francisco and stole the day's headlines.



Why not? The hype had been building for months. Beforehand, some pundits went so far as to say the Apple tablet could revolutionize the publishing and health care industries.

Why would anyone put it past Apple? This is the company that wowed geeks and gadget-heads with the ultra-light MacBook Air laptop, changed the landscape of the cell phone industry with the iPhone and put an iPod in just about everyone's pocket.


But when the iPad was finally shown to the public, it met with mixed reviews.

"I was whelmed," says Aaron Ahles of Prolific Technologies in St. Joseph. "I wasn't overwhelmed or underwhelmed." Others haven't been so kind. Business Daily analyst Charlie Sorrel says the iPad broke no new ground and is missing a lot of the previously expected bells and whistles.

"What Steve Jobs (Apple's CEO) launched ... was in fact little more than a giant iPhone. A giant iPhone that doesn't even make calls," Mr. Sorrel says.

Mr. Sorrel points out that the iPad doesn't have a few other things the iPhone and the iPod Touch have, such as a camera, a GPS unit or even a USB port.

"The subtle message here is that it's not a feature for the pros. The lack of a compact (USB) slot says 'amateurs only,'" Mr. Sorrel says.

Some are more concerned with the iPad's inability to support Adobe Flash Player -- a Web standard -- and its lack of multitasking capabilities (only one iPad application can be open at a time). C.J. Strike, project coordinator for Quality Attributes Software and editor of GameplayUnlimited.com, says these issues could lead potential iPad buyers to choose a more suitable alternative.

"Without Flash, you can't run half of the Web sites correctly," Mr. Strike explains. "For anywhere from $500 to $800, I'd be apt to buy a netbook or a low-end laptop over (the iPad)." However, Mr. Strike feels the iPad has a few positives going for it. The device's new iBooks application allows readers to buy everything from classics to best-sellers from the built-in iBookstore. Once someone has bought a book, it's displayed on iPad's Bookshelf, and users must simply tap it to start reading.

Admittedly, Apple wants to appeal to e-readers, and iBooks -- along with the iPad's large fonts and easy readability -- may help the company succeed on that front. Mr. Strike says that with its added features, the iPad could spell the end for another digital reading mainstay -- the Amazon Kindle.

"The iPad could go over really well with the e-reader crowd," he says. "Instead of a $300 Kindle, you could get a $500 iPad and be able to surf the Web and use iTunes." While Kindle owners may make the switch, neither Mr. Strike nor Mr. Ahles see iPhone or iPod Touch owners making the "upgrade" to the iPad.

"I still like old-fashioned books and I like my smart phone as it is," says Mr. Ahles, a self-proclaimed Mac guy. "The iPad's not going to be something I rush out and buy." Mr. Strike adds that it's hard to tell whether or not the iPad will be a huge seller. He says it probably won't appeal to the typical smartphone owner. But with its Internet browsing speed and iBooks, it could be a big hit with avid readers and traveling businessmen.

"Then again, there are so many faithful Apple people out there that it could just start selling ridiculous amounts for no reason," Mr. Strike says.

Wi-fi models of the iPad will be available in late March and wi-fi/3G models will be available in April. The iPad comes with three memory options -- 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB -- and they vary in price from $499 to $829. Visit www.apple.com/ipad for more information.

Lifestyles reporter Shea Conner can be reached at sheaconner@npgco.com.

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