Apple redefines tablet computer mkt with iPad

Written by Agencies | San Francisco | Updated: Jan 30 2010, 04:33am hrs
Apple is shaking up the gadget world with an iPad that redefines the tablet computer and threatens with obsolescence electronic readers, digital photo frames and other mono-purpose gizmos.

Apples new iPad signifies another step toward the convergence between smartphones and mobile computers, said Frost & Sullivan analyst Todd Day.

Its more than a smartphone, less than a notebook, but just the right personal device for everyday users. The iPad will likely be the best selling electronics device of 2010. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs late on Wednesday revealed the iPod, iPhone, and Macintosh computer makers latest must-have device, a touchscreen tablet computer crowned iPad.

The gadget has a 9.7-inch color screen and resembles an oversized iPhone. It is 0.5 inches thick, weighs 0.7 kg and comes with 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of flash memory. The cheapest iPad model, with Wi-Fi connectivity and 16GB of memory, is $499 while the most expensive which includes 3G connectivity and 64GB of memorycosts $829. The iPad offers full color, Web and multimedia capabilities for just $10 more than Amazon.coms top-of-the-line Kindle DX that presents digital reading material in black-and-white.

Pricing is very aggressive, so its pretty positive from a mass adoption perspective, said Brian Marshall, an analyst with Broadpoint Amtech.

The iPad is Apples biggest bet on a new product since the iPhone three years ago, and seeks to tap an unproven market for tablets. Analysts, while impressed by the iPads seamless functionality, also pointed out that consumers already have smartphones and laptops for their mobile computing needs.

Jobs described the iPad as a third category of devices, a do-everything media gadget that can surf the Web, and play movies and video games. He also left little doubt that Apple was going after the e-book market that Amazon had popularised. If theres going to be a third category of device, its going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone; otherwise it has no reason for being, said Jobs, who still appeared thin following his liver transplant last year. Now Amazons done a great job of pioneering this functionality with their Kindle. And were going to stand on their shoulders and go a bit further, he said. Research group IDC said it expects Apple to ship 4 million iPad units in 2010, with about 2 million in the US.

Shares of Apple rose to as high as $210.58 after the pricing news, up 5.5% from their session low. The stock closed up 0.94$ at $207.88 on Nasdaq, within reach of its all-time high of $215.59 logged on Jan 5.

Other technology companies, including Microsoft Corp and Toshiba Corp, have launched tablets that failed to take off in recent years. But analysts said they were impressed with the technology that Apple showed off. The iPad has a near life-size touch keyboard, and comes with all the expected features, including a calendar, an address book and maps. One thing Apple has proven is that they can consumerise new concepts, new technologies, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. That will probably be their claim to fame again with this.