COLUMBIA — After much hype and few facts surrounding Apple’s new product on the Internet, the Apple iPad was revealed to the public on Wednesday in San Francisco.
The iPad, which resembles and works like a large iPhone, is the latest addition to the e-reading arms race among Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and other companies.
“Every company who develops e-readers and tablets took notice of this announcement today,” said Roger Fidler, program director for digital publishing at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and a national expert in e-readers.
The iPad is viewed by many in the publishing industry as a key to adapting to the digital age. Also, the tablet computer represents a significant difference from the e-reader, which doesn't have much capability beyond electronic reading.
In addition to e-reading, the color, touch-screen tablet computer can play movies and music and has a Web browser and video games. The common e-reader has black and white type, doesn't run the applications the iPad will and can't play video.
"The way Apple is marketing it, it's a new tool for Web browsering, communication with the e-mail capability, entertainment and reading," Fidler said.
In MU’s Walter Williams Hall, a watch party was held to see the unveiling. Attendees watched a live blog of the announcement projected onto a wall. The only other way to follow was to be there. While the dozen or so people there watched and debated, elsewhere on the MU campus, Apple's big news went unnoticed.
“I’ve never even heard of it until right now,” sophomore Maureen Roach said.
"I know of it, but I don't know much about it," junior Matt Burkart said. "I heard about it a couple of months ago from my dad."
Whether people knew what was going on, the announcement was important for some, particularly for those in publishing.
“It’s exciting for the industry,” said Brian Brooks, associate dean of the Missouri School of Journalism. “For the first time, we have an e-reading device for newspapers and magazines that has color. No one wants a black and white page anymore.”
Apple has an established relationship with the Journalism School, which includes strongly recommending students to use a Macbook and the iPod Touch. Brooks said it is too soon to say whether the school will eventually recommend use of the iPad for students.
There have been some concerns about the potential harm the iPad could cause; some newspaper publishers feared Apple could control their content the same way the company controls music content through iTunes.
“We definitely don’t want what happened to the music industry,” said Sean Reily, a Reynolds institute fellow who this year is studying business models that newspapers can implement for e-readers. “We want our customers with us.”
Apple now has iBooks, which functions like iTunes, but at least for now, there isn’t a similar shop for news publications. Reily said this is good news for the industry, freeing publishers from the constraints of an online store.
Many of the expectations for the iPad were met, but a big surprise for the device came when the price was announced. After many technology blogs and Web sites predicted the price of the iPad at just under $1,000, it was revealed the price of the iPad starts at $499, and its most expensive version is $829.
“The consumer is the one who ends up winning,” Reily said. “Apple has really raised the bar. It undercuts everything it is in competition with.”
The competition, products such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, is against a company that is known for its innovation and easy-to-use technology.
“I just know the iPad is suppose to make everything very easy,” said Forrest Dougan, a MU sophomore who describes himself as a bit of a tech geek. “It doesn’t take the same tech savvy to work it like other tablets.”
The iPad may have just been revealed, but there was a planned project from the 1990s that is considered similar to the iPad and other e-readers of today.
Fidler was the former laboratory head of Knight Ridder, a company that attempted to build the device back in 1994. The tablet was eventually scrapped because of technological issues.
After going through the abandoned Knight Ridder project and seeing other tablets fail, Fidler said he is glad that Apple finally accomplished a goal he hoped would be accomplished.
“It makes me happy to see it happen,” Fidler said. “There’s still ways to go, but the Apple iPad has certainly taken us in the right direction.”
The Wi-Fi model of the iPad is scheduled to ship in late March and the 3G model will ship in April.