Does the iPad deliver?

As one of the more anticipated events in the tech community, Apple’s latest invention did not disappoint. In officially unveiling the new iPad, Steve Jobs took on the Amazon Kindle and once again raised the bar for its competitors. While pundits have criticized the iPad for lacking a true identity (and they are certainly right to an extent), similar to the iPhone, the iPad should encourage further innovation and will impact multiple industries. Taking a closer look at the iPad strictly as an e-reader, it is an interesting product that has advantages and disadvantages over the Kindle.

iPad Advantages:

  • Is a multi media device that can play movies, tv, and games, and allows for color screen web browsing
  • 9.7” touch screen is larger than the Kindle’s 7.5”
  • Standard 16GB flash storage is larger than the Kindle
  • iPad is compatible with all iPhone apps
  • iBooks store and deals with top publishers will ensure content will be available
  • Excellent for newspapers and text books, the iPad can show high resolution images, video and take notes

Kindle Advantages:

  • At $259 the Kindle is cheaper than the $499 iPad – which does not include a wireless plan
  • Free Wifi on the Kindle ensures that you can purchase and download books anywhere
  • eLink screen is better for reading
  • Books on the Kindle cost under $10, whereas the iBooks store will have variable pricing
  • iPad will be using ATT for its wireless service which is notoriously poor in cities such as New York and San Francisco
  • The Kindle has a significantly better battery life of 1-3 weeks, while the iPad is around 10 hours

For those looking strictly for an e-reader, the Kindle is probably the better choice. With a cheaper price, longer battery life, eLink screen, free wifi, and less expensive books, the Kindle is by far the better option for an avid reader. However for those (and I can imagine this represents the majority) looking for something that services newspapers, magazines, and text books, the iPad represents a significant upgrade. Not only is the color touch screen a substantial improvement, but the option to take notes, and store data, along with the multimedia capability, make the Kindle appear wildly outdated.

While my gut tells me that similar to the iPod, the iPad will win out; its success will be based on the outcome of three different things:

  • Will the iPad distinguish itself enough from the iPhone/iPod touch – As many critics have pointed out, the iPad is too big to replace your iPhone and not powerful enough to replace your laptop or even Mac Mini. Should an improved version come out with the ability to take pictures, run excel and word, and support Adobe Flash, it could start to take off very quickly. The lack of a USB Port is likely to drive consumers’ nuts as well.
  • What the Kindle does with its pricing model– Should the Kindle lower its current price to the $100-$200 range, consumers will be more inclined to look past the Kindle’s shortcomings. While the iPad is likely to come down in price as well, the need to purchase a data package and the prevalence of smart phones will drive customers away.
  • Can the iPad replace text books – While the iPad’s appeal is based on its ability to be more than just an e-reader, if it does a good job at marketing itself as an alternative to text books or work documents, Apple will have created something special. Given how iTunes has put a significant dent in illegally downloaded music, the iBook store could be something publishers aggressively embrace which would in turn help make the iPad a more common alternative.

While Apple has missed on products in the past, the public’s love affair with its products will likely ensure the iPad’s success. Even if pundits who criticized the iPad are correct, at the very least it should encourage the Kindle and the highly anticipated HP Slate to step up their game.

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