Apple iPad Finally Makes Its Debut!

The long-anticipated “tablet” from Apple is now official! I’ve held off on making assumptions and guesses prior to the official announcement today. There was just TOO MUCH HYPE already on the Web – much of it laughable. I had my own ideas, of course, as to what the iPad would include, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t too far off! This slick, gorgeous little device is sure to make a lot of people very, VERY happy. However, there are some drawbacks that I see, as well.

The device has a 9.7 inch display, weighs only 1.5 pounds, and is only half-inch thick! It’s powered by a new chip, a 1GHz A4 (Apple’s very own). You can get one with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB worth of space. It supports Wi-Fi, has an accelerometer, and has a built-in speaker and microphone. The screen is a full multi-touch (capacitive) screen. Battery life is purported to be a whopping 10 hours. In addition to Wi-Fi, it will have a 3G option from AT&T.

Therein lies the first gripe. AT&T? Seriously, Apple? AT&T has had enough problems handling 3G with just the iPhone and iPod Touch. Why do we have to be forced to use them for 3G service yet again? I can guarantee you that a whole lot of people are going to be very unhappy about that part. Heck, I’m already reading things from some people, claiming they won’t even bother with the iPad, simply due to this. A vocal minority, I’d assume.

Another huge gripe is the fact that the iPad does not come with an SD card slot, nor a USB port. However, you can of course purchase a separate adapter for SD media reading (their Camera Connection Kit). People want, need, and EXPECT their portable devices these days to have those two very basic features out-of-the-box. They don’t want to have to shell out even more money for adapters to make things happen.

The biggest omission is… a camera. Why they didn’t put one on the iPad is a little beyond me. Price and service are what largely separate the iPhone from the iPod Touch – but this is nowhere near a notebook replacement without a camera. A Kindle replacement, yes – an iPhone replacement, no. It’s an iPhone with a bigger screen.

On the upside, the price tag is far better than many expected it would be. The WiFi-only version, with 16GB of memory, will cost $499. The 32GB version will be $599, 64GB will be $699, and with 3G from AT&T, it will cost up-to $829. The good news on the 3G front is that you won’t need a contract. You’ll sign up for a monthly plan (cancel anytime). You can choose a measly 250 MB of data transfer for $15.00, or an unlimited plan for $29.99. That pricing – on both fronts – is a whole lot better than what I had figured it would be.

Another great piece of news is that nearly all of the existing iPhone apps will work on the iPad immediately. Apple also released a brand-new SDK today, so that devs can get busy creating new apps specifically for the iPad. The beautiful thing is that from now on, new apps that are created will work on either the iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad! I can just imagine the developers in our community salivating over this fact (already pounding away at their keyboards to come up with the next hot application)!

The iPad also comes with a new app called iBooks as well as an iBooks Store! Apple partnered with five publishers to make books available for sale through the iBooks store. The iBooks support the ePub format, and allows readers to casually flip through pictures, video, and other inline graphics.

I admit it – I will be getting an iPad. It’s one thing to read about it and watch all of the coverage. It will be another thing entirely to actually get my hands on one, and test it myself. I’ll reserve final judgment on the product until that time.

What are your thoughts so far on Apple’s newest gadget? Get it or skip it?