No Second Coming: Apple’s iPad Just a Big iPod Touch

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At today's big event, Apple delivered all the rah-rah, buzz phrases ("whole new experience" "it just works," isn't it awesome"), and slick industrial design we've come to expect. But at the end of the day, the show's centerpiece - the iPad -- is just a big iPod Touch. Lots of folks will want it, in a hypothetical sort of way. But it's hard to imagine all that many of them will fork over the initial $499 for a crippled version, or as much as $829 (for the 64 GB/3G model you'd want). Then there's the $15 to $30 per month you'd need to add to your existing carrier bill for the privilege of a persistent connection.

The unanswered question is whether we really need a "third device" - something to fill the gap between smartphone and laptop. Steve Jobs pitched that such a machine would need to be better than a laptop or a smartphone at email, photos, videos, music, games, and ebooks to justify its existence. One could argue that the iPad is better at these things only in that it is bigger. There's no fundamental advance here.

Consumers have not shown an overwhelming interest thus far in tablets. The iPad may be the best (and slickest) tablet we've seen. But that's like advertising yourself as the tastiest cod liver oil. Where's the real multitasking that might set this apart? Will developers really rush to develop apps for this if there isn't a groundswell of support among users? Where's the camera?

Here we have a fabulous browser, with a beautiful high-res display, that mostly matches capabilities found in lots of lightweight notebooks. Not to mention a certain phone already owned by millions.

Certainly the Apple faithful will snap this up, despite the pricing. For the iPad to succeed, it has to reach beyond that tight-knit fraternity, as the iPhone did. Best guess: This may not reach much farther than the Apple TV.

Full disclosure: These are first impressions based on Apple's presentation. We'll be following up with more reporting, analysis and hands on experiences once the device becomes available.

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