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Apple iPad: a new lease of life for the ill-fated tablet?

by Parm Mann on 1 February 2010, 10:42

Tags: iPad, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

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Introducing the iPad

Unless you've been living on a distant planet this past few weeks, you've probably heard that Apple has launched a new product dubbed the iPad.

Unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs and described by the company as "magical and revolutionary", the iPad hopes to become the one device that fills the elusive gap between a smartphone and a notebook.

Whilst some might argue that the gap doesn't exist, others will no doubt suggest that the gap has already been filled by netbooks, low-cost computers that in recent years have soared to popularity and helped see a struggling PC market through a challenging economic crisis.

Nonetheless, Jobs - during his iPad unveiling speech at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco last week - was quick to dismiss netbooks as "cheap laptops" that "aren't better at anything". Citing "low-quality displays" and "PC software" as key drawbacks to netbook computers, Jobs insists that Apple's iPad will provide "the best web experience you've ever had".

Hoping to create a new niche in a market swamped with devices of multiple shapes and sizes, Jobs believes a 10in ultra-portable system needs to be better at certain tasks performed on both smartphones and notebooks - referring specifically to web browsing and the use of email, photos, video, music, games and ebooks.

As you'd expect, Apple's solution is undoubtedly one of the best-looking ultra-portable offerings to date. Measuring around 13mm thick and weighing just 0.7kg, the tablet-like system is an exquisite piece of kit that may win over a fair number of consumers on looks alone.

But it isn't just a pretty product. Inside, Apple has equipped the iPad with a 1GHz Apple A4 processor, up to 64GB of Flash storage, Wireless N and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a built-in accelerometer and compass. Yet, despite the sumptuously finished hardware, it's Apple's software experience that is likely to make the iPad shine.

Running Apple's iPhone operating system, the iPad will be a user experience that's already familiar to millions of consumers around the globe, and all those thousands of apps that you know and love? They'll all be available, too. As will iTunes, one of the world's leading digital media stores.

Sounds impressive, but will it finds its place in a market brimming with smartphones and low-cost notebooks? Tablet PCs have been around for the last decade, and have so far failed to make an impact. Is there reason to believe the iPad will be any different? Let's take a look.