Friday, January 29, 2010

Critics dampen hype over Apple's iPad

Tech experts and gadget fans dampened the early hype on Thursday over Apple's new iPad, saying the touchscreen computer tablet is not the must-have device the company claims it is. Hours after Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled its latest creation, computer and technology bloggers were divided on whether it would after all transform the way we spend our leisure time. Users eager to judge for themselves will have to wait two months before the iPad is shipped worldwide at an entry-level price of 499 dollars. Jobs showed off various features which include browsing the Web, checking email, working with spreadsheets and charts, playing videogames, listening to music or watching video. While some critics predicted it would become the best-selling electronics device of 2010, others complained it has no camera or USB, can't multi-task, can't be used as a phone and doesn't support Flash. "The iPad isn't going to be a phenomenon with either netbook users or power users," tech blog Mashable wrote. "The iPad isn't the transformational device so many Apple enthusiasts were hoping for. It won't turn all the content industries upside down, it won't be your primary computing device and it's not even a bigger, better iPhone." Still, many critics were enthused, some pronouncing it would signal the end of the road for the likes of e-book reader Kindle. Apple said the basic iPad would be available worldwide in late March from upwards of 499 dollars, and the 3G version in April in the United States and selected countries from 629 dollars. The device is "unlocked," meaning buyers can pick preferred telecom service providers. It has a 9.7-inch (24.6-centimeter) color screen resembling an iPhone, is 0.5 inches thick, weighs 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) and has flash memory of 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes. Screen images flip between portrait and landscape modes depending on how an iPad is held. Mobile game applications for iPhone also work on the iPad, and developers are adapting software to take advantage of the extra screen "real estate." It has a picture frame mode for presenting slide shows of stored photos and Google Maps coupled with geo-location software. Frost & Sullivan analyst Todd Day said it is "more than a smartphone, less than a notebook, but just the right personal device for everyday users." "I think it's a home run," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. "It becomes a viable alternative to a netbook and I get the 140,000 applications in the App Store. It is a pretty compelling value proposition." Jobs, who underwent a liver transplant last year and was making his second public appearance since September, touted its ability as an electronic reader of books, newspapers and magazines. "You can have black-and-white, color, video in your books -- whatever the author wants," he said. Claudine Beaumont, technology writer for Britain's Daily Telegraph, hailed its sleekness, reading software and virtual keyboard. "It won't replace your laptop, but I think it may have sounded the death knell for notebook computers," she wrote. Apple shares gained 0.94 percent to close at 207.88 dollars on Wall Street, but slipped a tad in after-hours electronic trading. But Michael Hiltzik, a technology columnist for the Los Angeles Times, said it was like an iPod that was too big for your pocket but too small to contain your entire music collection. "The iPad resembles a scaled-up iPhone -- without the phone," he wrote. On the tech blog of Britain's Guardian daily, contributors were generally critical, one complaining that it was an overpriced device "with an ugly lump aimed at a niche that doesn't even exist."

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