Apple iPad: One heat seeking missile aimed at netbooks, e-readers

Apple iPad: One heat seeking missile aimed at netbooks, e-readers

Summary: Apple has unveiled its iPad tablet and almost instantly the debate began: Is this device a computer or a mobile device? Is it an e-reader or light laptop? Where does the iPad fit? Is this tablet really different? Apple likes those questions since the iPad is one device aimed at two markets---e-readers and netbooks.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, Mobility
285

Apple has unveiled its iPad tablet and almost instantly the debate began: Is this device a computer or a mobile device? Is it an e-reader or light laptop? Where does the iPad fit? Is this tablet really different? Apple likes those questions since the iPad is one device aimed at two markets---e-readers and netbooks.

Simply put, boxing the iPad into a strict definition just doesn't work. In some respects, netbooks and e-readers are designed for the same tasks: Reading, Web content and light use. Apple CEO Steve Jobs appears to be targeting both with the iPad.

Consider Jobs' unveiling on Wednesday (Techmeme):

Jobs said the iPad is "more intimate than a laptop and more capable than a smartphone."

Sounds like a netbook rival. But then Jobs uncorks the Amazon Kindle jabs.

"Amazon has done a great job with the Kindle and we're going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further."

Jobs really revealed that the iPad is a netbook and e-reader heat seeking missile when he outlined the device's pricing. "We had very ambitious technical goals and user interface goals, but also aggressive price goals because we wanted to put this in the hands of lots of people. The iPad pricing starts at $499," he said. In fact, the pricing probably saved the whole event. Every skeptic I know---including the one I see in the mirror---was on board for $499. Why? That price is well known and it's an amount where you say, "I could do that."

Andrew Nusca: Why Apple will sell millions of iPads in 2010 Special Report: Meet the iPad: $499 and up Apple iPad: First thoughts on how it will impact business users

To wit:

The Kindle DX goes for $489. It's no coincidence that a Google search on "Kindle DX" yields sponsored ads for Apple's iPad.

Reading that it's clear that Apple is aimed at the Kindle. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster writes:

We believe the iPad and Kindle can comfortably coexist for the next year given their different functionality and price points. We've taken a look at the iPad and believe Amazon's Kindle is superior as a dedicated reading device because of its eInk technology, whereas Apple's iPad is better suited as a multimedia device. That being said, we believe the devices will compete more directly in 2011 as their functionality evolves and prices come down.

However, if you follow the money---actually keyword advertising---it's clear that the iPad is also positioned as a netbook killer.

Do a search on netbooks and you get an iPad sponsored ad.

Apple's Tim Cook called netbooks junky so the company will chafe at the term used in the same sentence as the iPad, but the keywords say something different.

Meanwhile, the iPad is a souped-up e-reader (although I would like to try it on the deck or on the beach for it to truly upend the Kindle).  In geek circles, the iPad can spark some debate about its positioning. CNet's Dan Ackerman captures the scuttlebutt. Is the iPad a computer or a mobile device? The debate could last longer than you'd think. Munster writes:

After using the iPad, we believe it will cannibalize iPod touch sales, but not Mac sales. The gadget is a premium mobile device, not a computer; as such, we see some iPod touch buyers stepping up to the iPad, but consumers looking for an affordable portable computer will likely stick with the MacBook lineup.

These debates happen when a company is trying to redefine a category. Apple's iPod touch is more gaming machine than music player. Toss in the apps and you can make the argument that the iPod touch is a mini-PC. The waters get really murky with the iPad.

The iPad doesn't fit well into any category. What's unclear is whether Apple dangled enough carrots in front of buyers to keep them interested. Once the initial reaction wears off consumers start crunching the numbers. ZDNet's Joel Evans walks through his buying calculus. I have my own, but would probably lean in favor of an iPad. Overall, technology buyers have to ask whether they want to carry yet another device. If so, the iPad warrants a look.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

285 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Heat Seeking Missile

    Heat seeking it may be, but it misses by a mile.
    psychobdelic
    • No fuel in the rocket, no explosives in the warhead

      Without multitasking, decent storage space, desktop apps, and physical keys that can be angled independently of the screen, this thing is a dud by all measures.
      T1Oracle
      • A huge Apple Fan in our office dubbed the same as a feminine...

        product -the Apple "Maxi Pad" - ouch. He was not very impressed, I had to pick myself up. The comment was he has a laptop and an iPhone -he says he doesn't need that. Oh well wonders never cease around here.
        ItsTheBottomLine
        • I would actually consider it if...

          it's 100% compatible (of course within reason,
          so say 99%) with iPhone apps and does the apps
          fullscreen. Does it contain the compass,
          accelerometers and camera that an iphone does?
          It sounds silly, but those features made the
          iphone really innovative. I'm not going to buy
          a display that large just to read books or
          watch videos. For that I can use my laptop or
          kindle... or even my smartphone. But if its
          just a giant iphone then kickass I want one.
          (and I don't even like apple products that
          much)
          shadfurman
          • NOT an phone...so you don't want one

            The MaxIpad has NO phone functions. You can not make or receive calls on it. It is a big iPod Touch, and that is IT.

            Oh yea....you can pay another $130 up front, and $30 a month and get wireless internet ONLY connect on AT&T already overloaded 3G circuits....oh goodie!
            donc13
          • Don't put a roadblock where none exists

            Not true--with 3g access you CAN use it for voip
            lelandhendrix
          • I think you're confused.

            3G access has nothing to do with VOIP. 3G access is provided by AT&T, so it would just be a normal cell phone call. And that'd be one [i]very[/i] expensive cell phone.
            bhartman36
      • NEW CATEGORY = Virtual Digital Appliance = stop looking in rear view mirror

        The iPad is not intended to compete with net-books or ereaders. Those
        are just the up front, shot term, rationalized camouflage use cases.
        These old school use cases are still great use cases for the iPad. The
        iPad has an elegant simplicity that can easily reach out to encompass
        99% of what Digital-Appliance-Users need to do on a daily bases. The
        iPad is not targeted at the geek-alter of kitchen-sink feature-list
        worshipers! The iPad is not for ZDnet readers. YOU SHOULD NOT,
        UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, BUY THIS THING!!! So be forewarned, we
        do not want to hear any post purchase whining from any of you!

        --------------------------------------
        NEW CATEGORY = Virtual Digital Appliance = click to repurpose!
        --------------------------------------

        Process Displays / Process Controllers / Data Capture / Data Message /
        Data Visualization ---> FOR:
        ---- factory floor use cases
        ---- office use cases
        ---- medical use cases
        ---- service industry use cases
        ---- transportation industry use cases
        ---- home media control use cases
        ---- home security control use cases
        ---- home smart energy & home plug use cases
        ---- universal remote control use cases of all manner

        All these use cases can be instantly switched to an alternate Virtual
        Digital Appliance use case at will. This allowing you to repurpose your
        Virtual Digital Appliance as needed throughout your day or cycle
        shared units to employees as needed for various tasks, offering Apple
        customers great reuse cost efficiencies with low learning curve costs.

        All these use cases have built in wireless communications with web
        access, email, video, books/PDF manuals, sound files and more as the
        base line functionality. Now add a simple to use multi-touch interface
        based on Apple's clever perceptual ergonomic sensibilities!

        So lets say your an old fart like me. I don't need much computer techie
        heavy wait shit. This thing is so simple even I can master it. Hell I bet
        I'll be able to play tech whizz hero to my women friends and teach
        them to use it. This thing can meet all my computing and web access
        needs. I can even get a keyboard and call it my desktop unit. Hell its
        good enough for my simple daily portable laptop needs as well. All this
        plus 3G connectedness for only $700 bucks and I get to be that tech
        savvy guy down at the lawn bowling club as well! This could be a real
        chick magnet for me. I'll have all the cougars taken a second look at
        this flashy high tech old geezer! First I'll charm them with a few photos
        of the grandchildren and then accidently bring up my digital copy of
        the Kama Sutra while I show off how you can actually read book with
        this thing.

        Oh! - ONE MORE THING

        ZDnet, where the big picture tech visionaries hang. Keep up all your
        good work. I hear that Steve need your help as he gets all his best
        ideas here on ZDnet feedback!
        raycote
        • Hey Mike! You gotta migrane???

          nt
          eargasm
        • Thank you

          Exactly. These are not the netbooks you are looking for because you're
          all geeks to the core. You are totally missing the target audience. I am
          a power user, I use an 8-core Mac tower to mix digital audio almost
          every day. The iPad has absolutely no practical use for me. None of
          the programs I need could run on this thing and I'd fill up the hard
          drive in one session.
          But for the other four members of my family, from age 6 to 46, this is
          really the perfect computer. They really don't need a 24 inch 1080p
          screen, they don't need to see the file system, they don't need 2
          terabyte hard drives, they don't need to edit Final Cut. They need
          email, music, movies, games, internet, iWork and facebook. That's it.
          This really is the first real computer for the rest of us and Apple
          already has the entire ecosystem in place to make it succeed: apps,
          developers, audio/print/video media, peripherals, 3G options, wifi and
          a spectacular retail system to show it off to consumers.
          Normal people will compare crappy $300 netbooks to this thing and it
          won't take them more than a nano-second to pull out the extra $200
          and buy the iPad.
          It's not about the hardware specs or features. It's definitely not about
          supporting multitasking, removable batteries Flash or MS Office. The
          iPhone proved that. It's about how much fun it is to use and the
          enormous peripheral, music, movie, TV show, retail and app
          ecosystem ready to support it.

          Mark it on your calendars, by this time next year, Apple will be rolling
          in cash from this thing.
          Synthmeister
          • wrong by a mile....

            I would rather get the netbook where I can do more with one of those than this worthless thing. Now if it ran for $100 I might get it just for the ability to access the internet where ever i go. I would not get something that has less functionality than a netbook and pay twice the amount for it.
            dougogd1
          • Clear/Google/Walmart have 4G WiMax Coming Out B4 Year's End! :D

            Google is slated to get Nexus One phone to sell. Meaning mass market appeal. Where you can see and demo it in the store you do weekly shopping in!

            Next is their Nexus Two 4G netbook w/ Chrome OS pre-loaded and you'll be connecting as you walk out the door of Walmart to your car. If you want open/shut convenience at a great price, then it will be worth waiting for!

            Let's face it an open face designed device is fine for an iPod or iPhone, you can put in your pocket. But this is the size of a tablet PC. So what will you be pulling it out of? It's as impractical as a Tablet for everyday use and that's been done, tested and failed already. So Yes.... you'll have another case to get lost or misplaced. That's why Tablet PC's failed and why this will ultimately FAIL as well in this ECONOMY! ...at $700 I will be able to buy 2 Google Chrome Netbooks! :D

            And you Apple fools wonder why there have been a gazillion more PC's w/windows sold over Apple expensive devices sold in the last 20yrs?
            i2fun
          • Google stuff is spyware

            You talk about "Apple fools", well anybody giving their life to Google will live to regret it.
            jorjitop
      • Personally, I agree

        however I also thought the same of the iphone and touch. Apparently I was wrong.

        Apple reminds me of Nordstroms, where their reputation is so good it defies reality and so people will buy anything they sell. Apple is indeed in an envious position.

        Brain says a failure, gut says it will succeed for some reason I can't quite fathom.
        LiquidLearner
    • Hilarious.... and they think this thing will SELL! ;)

      Call me budget conscious in a recession, but why in the World would anyone buy this gadget at twice the price of a netbook? That already comes in a protective case to keep that screen usable.

      I see a giant FAIL in it's Future in this economy.... er lack of it! :D

      iPhone and iPod were both launched under decent economic conditions and were success because they brought something new. A rehashed Tablet is not NEW! lol ....especially in the sense they want $600 for it in it's basic form!

      Yep..... they forgot to arm this missile and it looks like a "DUD" to me!
      i2fun
  • Heh...

    Right, but are you sure the Atom processor is weaker than the A4?
    Where the rubber meets the road the Atom feels awful sluggish,
    especially married to Windows 7 Starter Edition.

    This looks far faster than that.

    People will complain about the lack of multitasking - you're really
    telling me that multitasking is REALLY useful on a system with such
    low performance and small display?

    I think a lot of people have usage scenarios for Netbooks that in
    reality the systems won't actually be capable of (they'll do it - but not
    well enough for it to make sense). The iPad sets itself lower targets,
    and meets them with a flourish. This is why the original Apple Newton
    was a failure and the Palm Pilot was a success - do less, but do it well.

    The iPad is no laptop, but that isn't the point. A lot of the time, you
    don't need a laptop - you're consuming music/video/photos/web. For
    light office productivity this looks "enough". It even seems capable of
    games. So no, it's not a laptop - it's something new. Though the
    positioning reminds me of Palm's ill-fated Folio, and I still wonder if
    Palm didn't miss a trick with that.

    On that subject, I'd like to see Palm's version of this - running webOS.
    jeremychappell
    • "limited" experience

      "The iPad is no laptop, but that isn't the point. A lot of the time, you
      don't need a laptop - you're consuming music/video/photos/web. For
      light office productivity this looks "enough". It even seems capable of
      games."

      All of that you mention above is called "MULTITASKING" you can do that on a netbook for at least $200 less and that's including the ability to use 3G and at least 100GB of disk space. Where as the price rises on the IPad another $160 to be 3G capable and the $499 only gets you 16GB.

      Yes I want to be able to listen to pandora while looking at pictures or surfing the web. That does not seem like I'm asking to much out of a web-device. But it's Apple so it's capabilities, I mean "features" are limited.
      chrisj979
      • @chrisj979

        You could listen to iTunes and still look at pictures and surf the web. I do with my wife's iPhone.
        Axsimulate
      • Still not getting it...

        You're saying you want to listen to music and look at pictures OR surf
        the web. This can do that, you use use the iPod application and the
        Photos app or Safari. You're forgetting, this is Apple - they are looking
        for you to use the iTunes store.

        I know what you're really balking at, it's the hermetically sealed nature
        of this device.

        I can see you want to install anything. This doesn't do that. However,
        there is an advantage to this: no viruses. Yes, it's a trade off - no
        denying it. However, there is an upside with Apple's approach. That's
        also why there is no Flash. I can see arguments for both approaches.
        jeremychappell
        • Obviously you're not getting it

          Not having multitasking is a big thing. Even my 15 yo son uses IM while browsing the web and other multitaksing on his netbook.

          No access to the file system is just ridiculous. What are you supposed to do if you create a document, email it to yourself?

          No handwriting recognition makes it useless for these types of applications.

          Personally I find Apples assumption that users aren't intelligent enough to safeguard their systems or change a battery insulting.

          What I like about it is that it uses a solid state drive. This makes it load apps pretty snappy, and I'd like to see more netbooks and laptops with these. This is likely what gives it its ridiculous inflated price tag.
          baileysc