Apple iPad: Overpriced or visionary?

You didn't think we'd go all day without addressing Apple's new announcement, did you? The Apple iPad is on its way, and pretty much everyone who ever googled "electronics" has heard about it. In summary: it's a 10-inch iPod Touch. Seriously, that's exactly what it is. Same basic operating system, same interface, same playback capabilities, and same apps.

Okay, it's not the groundbreaking tablet-computer-of-the-future that blogs have been speculating about for the past week. On the surface, it looks little more than the expensive lovechild of an iPod and a Kindle (which, honestly, sounds pretty cool). But what if we looked at it purely as a media player? After all, this is Sound & Vision, not Words & Spaces.

A little over a decade ago, Apple introduced the iPod and pretty much defined the format of the portable media player. A small gadget, about the size of a deck of cards, on which you can listen to music (and, as the technology evolved, watch video). Great for music, decent for video. Still, let's face it: a 2- to 3-inch screen is pretty darn tiny for your favorite movies and television shows.

While the iPad is obviously way too large to slip into a jacket pocket, it seems to be an excellent form factor for a briefcase, backpack, or messenger bag. If you're on a plane, on the subway, waiting in line, or trying to entertain yourself or your kids in the car, the big screen makes it pretty appealing. Finally, an iPod that can play video you can watch without squinting or holding up to your face. Its potential as an e-reader is an added bonus, as is the alleged 10-hour video battery life.

Of course, it's far from perfect. At 1024 x 768, the iPad's screen falls short of high definition resolution, and its 4:3 aspect ratio means your favorite widescreen content needs to be cropped or letterboxed. It's a higher resolution than the iPod and iPod Touch, but it's not exactly an ideal portable HD video player. Also, while it features a built-in speaker, it probably will sound little better than the speakers found on the iPod Nano and iPhone/iPod Touch (tinny and underpowered).

To answer the headline's question... yes, it's overpriced. Of course, so was the first iPod. And the first iPhone. And the first eBook reader. But perhaps in a generation or two, the iPad will become popular as the catch-all-device the iPod Touch tried to be. It's not small enough to conveniently stash in your pocket to listen to while you jog, but a great form factor for watching movies and reading books on the go. Time will tell.

Will Greenwald

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