The first release of the Apple iPad went on sale at 9 this morning to the long lines of customers who were camped out in front of Apple Stores and Best Buys, waiting to buy them. The hand-held 9.5" touchscreen computers, which can access WiFi but not yet 3G (those go on sale later this month) range in price from $499 for a 16GB model to $699 for 64GB. The 3G models will cost $130 dollars more. Reported online sales in the hundreds of thousands drove Apple's stock price to a company record $238.73 this week.
Reaction has been mixed, with most critics citing the lack of camera, USB ports and multitasking, and lack of support for Adobe's flash. The enthusiasts, on the other hand, are very, very enthusiastic.
Long-time Mac evangelist (and Chicago Sun-Times technology columnist) Andy Ihnatko: Pro.
The most compelling sign that Apple got this right is the fact that despite the novelty of the iPad, the excitement slips away after about ten seconds and you're completely focused on the task at hand ... whether it's reading a book, writing a report, or working on clearing your Inbox. Second most compelling: in situation after situation, I find that the iPad is the best computer in my household and office menagerie. It's not a replacement for my notebook, mind you. It feels more as if the iPad is filling a gap that's existed for quite some time.
Twitter god Stephen Fry, writing in Time magazine: Pro.
It is possible that the public will not fall on the iPad, as I did, like lions on an antelope. Perhaps they will find the apps and the iBooks too expensive. Maybe they will wait for more fully featured later models. But for me, my iPad is like a gun lobbyist's rifle: the only way you will take it from me is to prise it from my cold, dead hands. One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest thing to his Hitchhiker's Guide that humankind has yet devised.
USA Today personal tech columnist Edward C. Baig: Pro.
The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of.
David Pogue of the Times wrote a two-part review, with a critical look for techies (Do you use BitTorrent? Do you run Linux? Do you have more e-mail addresses than pants? You're a techie."):
There's no multitasking, either. It's one app at a time, just like on the iPhone. Plus no U.S.B. jacks and no camera. Bye-bye, Skype video chats. You know Apple is just leaving stuff out for next year's model.
The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money -- with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you've already got a laptop and a smartphone, who's going to carry around a third machine?
...and a much more enthusiastic assessment "for Everyone Else":
The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right.
And the techies are right about another thing: The iPad is not a laptop. It's not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it's infinitely more convenient for consuming it -- books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on. For most people, manipulating these digital materials directly by touching them is a completely new experience -- and a deeply satisfying one.
boingboing's Cory Doctorow is firmly in Pogue's first camp
But with the iPad, it seems like Apple's model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of "that's too complicated for my mom" (listen to the pundits extol the virtues of the iPad and time how long it takes for them to explain that here, finally, is something that isn't too complicated for their poor old mothers).
The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a "consumer," what William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."
The way you improve your iPad isn't to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.
The consensus on CrunchGear: "Meh."
It looks really cool, aesthetically, but the battery life and screen can't replace my Kindle, the lack of USB ports and expandable storage can't replace my netbook, and I already have an iPhone 3GS. So it'd basically be $500+ for a bigger screen, a slightly faster CPU, and an external keyboard that I'd never carry around with me. I might buy one in a year or two once they've gone through a couple revisions.