“The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it,” declared the Wall Street Journal. Such was the effusive buzz surrounding Apple’s recent announcement of its newest product: the iPad. Indeed, Apple has enjoyed a long string of great successes in the mobile electronics market. In the last decade alone, it has revolutionized the mobile music and phone industries with its ever evolving iterations of the iPod and iPhone. This time, however, Apple faces a much bigger challenge. Whereas the iPod, the iPhone, and even the Mac had merely been reinterpretations of existing products with established markets, the iPad seeks to create a brand new one. Slotted between the iPhone and the iMac, the iPad’s challenge is to convince the markets that it is worth an additional 500 to 1000 dollars when most potential buyers probably already own one of the others.
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs finally unveiled the iPad in January of 2010, critics professional and amateur alike immediately lashed out at the product. Late show host David Letterman joked that a “one billion dollar research grant was set aside to find out what the hell the iPad does.” Many criticized it for looking exactly like an iPhone or for having a stupid name. More significant gripes centered upon its lack of features. Most notably, the iPad does not have a camera or USB drives, and it cannot multitask. What’s the point of buying an iPad if you can’t drag files from an external hard drive directly onto your iPad, or if you can’t listen to Pandora while writing a document at the same time?
Yet many industries are already looking towards the iPad for their future. The print media, having been pummeled by the rise of the internet, is now salivating at a chance to sell their products on the iPad. Apple has already gathered a collection of blue chip publishers including Penguin and Simon and Schuster, who have pledged to publish their books on the tablet. More importantly, the iPad will allow for advertisements, on which many media companies depend. Many Software developers are likewise hoping to take advantage of Apple’s expansive Apps Store and its glossy, 10 inch screen to lure gamers and businessmen alike.
Of course, when Apple revolutionizes a market, competitors are quick to follow. Rumors of rival tablets from Sony, Samsung, and HP have sprung up across the web. Amazon’s Kindle has created its own app store in anticipation of the iPad’s arrival. But history has proven Apple’s potency in the market place. Given time, it will likely add missing features and enable multitasking in its iPad. Just as the iPod and iPhone continue to dominate their respective markets today, the iPad might soon join its brethren as a ubiquitous sight around campuses, airports, and cafes around the world.