On Wednesday, the most anticipated technology product announcement of the last few years took place (video of the event here), and Apple finally showed off their tablet computer, the iPad. The iPad is going to dominate the technology discussion for the next several months, but here's a first-blush look at the tech specs and features that are going to be important for libraries and education. as well as what's missing and what we should be worried about.
First up, the specs: the iPad is a roughly 9.5 x 7.5 inch slab of glass and aluminum, .5 inch thick, and weighs in an 1.5 pounds. The 9.7 inch LCD screen is LED backlit, and has a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch. Apple is producing 6 unique versions of the iPad, 3 different storage capacities with 2 different wireless connectivity options. Here's a table summarizing the different options:
|Wi-Fi + 3G||$629||$729||$829|
The iPad runs a version of the iPhone operating system, and does indeed look a great deal like an oversized iPod Touch. It will run all of the existing Apps that are available for the iPhone/iPod touch, at either the original resolution (windowed on the iPad screen) or something that Steve Jobs referred to as "pixel doubled" at full screen. Apple claims that the iPad will have 10 hours of battery life on Wi-Fi.
For libraries,these are probably the interesting most details:
Jobs announced a new iBook store and corresponding application on the iPad, putting the device squarely in the eReader category. Apple verified that it will use the EPUB format, but unfortunately Abode also verified that it won't be using Adobe DRM. This almost certainly means that the iBook application won't play nicely with existing library ebook providers like Overdrive, which use the Adobe DRM standard and are compatible with any reader that does the same. Apple will most likely be using their own DRM, which will further limit the use of purchased iBook titles to just the iPad (plus, perhaps, other Apple devices, although there has been no details at all on this front).
The iBook application looks incredible, and the reports from those who actually used it via the demo units at the launch announcement were that it was very much like a physical book in feel, complete with color and page turn. They've got 5 or 6 major publishers already signed up to produce content, and in the screenshots of the iBookstore, you'll notice that they've done something else--they've moved up the price point for an ebook. Books on the iBookstore look to be in the $12.99 range, instead of the $9.99 range as on the Kindle. When this was noticed by Walt Mossberg, technology columnist for the New York Times, he asked Jobs about it. Jobs' response was that there won't be any difference in the prices between the two stores. Parse that, as either the iBooks will go down, or perhaps the Kindle books will go up.
There are a lot of details to be parsed out of this thing, some of which may only come after it actually hits the streets (60 days for the wifi version, 90 for the 3G). I imagine I'll be writing a lot about it in the next few months, as details start to trickle out...I'll do my best to keep everyone up to date.