‘The new iPad is like an iPhone on steroids’

Contrary to reports, Apple’s new tablet is not capable of turning water into wine. But as a piece of consumer-friendly hardware, it is pretty revolutionary. Part of that, most of that, is down to the price but we will come back to that later.

During Steve Jobs’s presentation at the Yerba Buena Center, I was feeling slightly underwhelmed. As he went through its capabilities, I was thinking: so this is just another slice of computing loveliness from Apple but I don’t really think I want to buy one. Then, I went to have a play in the hands-on area and now I may have changed my mind.

My first impression is an obvious one – although Apple won’t like the description, the new iPad is like an iPhone on steroids. It will be familiar to anyone who has an iPhone or an iPod Touch – the touchscreen interface is pixel perfect and the larger screen allows video and games to breathe and become much more immersive. It is slim and elegant to hold, and although it has some weight in the hands – it is after all made of metal and glass – it is feels a lot lighter than any laptop.

I played with one for only a few minutes, taking my turn among the hundreds of ravenous media. There is only one button on the whole machine – the home button at the bottom of the device – everything else is handled through touch. The adapted iPhone operating system was as intuitive and pleasing as on the iPhone and the colour screen brought the applications to sparkling life.

In particular the gaming community should be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of this new platform. Apple said it would provide a “goldrush” for developers and I am inclined to agree. There are already 140,000 apps in Apple App Store and many more specifically designed for the tablet are doubtless on their way.

The biggest announcement within the launch was Apple’s new iBooks application and its online iBookstore. Apple now has three market-leading online stores for music, software applications and digital books – a pretty powerful combination. More than 125 million people have one-touch purchase already with Apple and even if a fraction of these use the bookstore, the other e-reader companies such as Amazon had better look out.

So will I buy one? I have a smartphone and a powerful portable laptop. I don’t really need another portable device. I love my media, like movies and TV, on my laptop. But I might just buy an iPad because Steve Jobs has priced them so aggressively. In the US the basic model, with constant 3G connectivity, will be $629 ($499 without the 3G). Apple has cut a deal with AT&T to provide an unlimited data plan for just $29.99 a month. That is pretty good. I am tempted. We will see if such deals will be available in the UK.

Here’s what Stephen Fry, actor and gadget fan extraordinaire, who I spoke to as he left the hands-on area, said: “It is transformative device. You only really get it when you get your hands on it.”



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