People queued in droves today as Apple’s iPad was released in the UK. The device was released in the US in April where it sold more than a million units in its first month.
Many high-profile tech companies have entered the tablet and netbook markets in the past but have struggled make an impact on the market due to devices failing to lure people away from the increasingly popular multifunctional laptop. The tablet has remained more of a niche product and has not quite managed to pull widespread adoption not until now anyway. So why has the iPad has fast become a major success for Apple, which marks a significant point in the history of mobile devices? The iPad is not a netbook or a tablet, but both in one. With its multi-touch capability, portability and range of features inherited from both the netbook and tablet worlds, the iPad is a crossover device, which so far seems to be one of its’ greatest selling points. Apple’s marketing has always proven key to their products’ successes, and the iPad holds no exception to this rule. With each new release, Apple is accused of using ‘style over substance’ marketing to sell their product. Is this true of the iPad? The ‘style’ of the iPad will be already well known to many; most of us will either own or know several people who own a Mac, iPod, iPod Touch or an iPhone (or all of them!), and will be aware of the elegant and simplistic approach Apple takes to the design and usability of their devices. Again, the iPad is no exception to this rule. With regards to ‘substance’ though, many questions have arisen as to whether Apple is selling a product or a vision.
As with its predecessor the iPhone, the iPad has drawn criticism on the matter of vendor lock-in. Apple is notorious for using vendor lock-in to control the feature sets and extensibility of their devices. As a result of this, the iPad is currently unable to perform (or, more accurately, is restricted by design from performing) some tasks that would be generally expected of a basic netbook or tablet-based device. This is not an uncommon complaint of Apple. Apple has also drawn criticism for selling the iPad based on what it may do in the future once iPad application development takes off, rather than what it can do right now. Is the iPad a perfect example of style over substance and ‘form over function’? Time will tell; it will be an interesting year for the portable device.