Apple's iPad was likely the worst-kept secret in recent history with many of its features leaked or speculated in the months leading up to its launch. Tablets are not a new category and neither are smart phones, so we asked three resellers with long histories in these categories what they think about the shiny new toy and how their customers will respond to it?
Neil Hancock, managing director, Portacom, Perth, WA
How does the iPad fit with niches in your business?
We have never seen large tablet interest. Originally, when tablet products first came out, they were very similar to the design of the Apple iPad. They proved too much of a niche product and were relegated to specific industries in small numbers.
To try and improve the acceptance of the tablet, an integrated keyboard was added, making the unit look and function similarly to that of a notebook computer. This was more successful but still not a major product.
We will try and sell the Apple and I hope it is a winner but historically, the tablet was not a major success.
What price would you like to see the entry-level, 16GB model pitched into?
$999 would be the right starting price to be a success.
What are some of the caveats about the device, restrictions on its use, and what do you think it will do well?
There is a difference between a touch screen and a tablet screen. The Tablet screen usually allows for the use of a stylus for handwriting entry. Until I physically see and use the iPad, I reserve judgement here.
The speed of the device becomes more important as the unit gets bigger - I hope the CPU is fast enough for Tablet use.
It looks like a giant iPhone.
It should be a success if they can get the appropriate content and pricing right.
Ted Markstein, owner, Userland Australia, Katoomba NSW
How does the iPad fit with niches in your business?
It's a game changing product it will sell, probably at the same sort of volumes as the iPhone. It allows anybody in education to have their entire reference library accessible without having to lug books around. It's an enormously potent education tool and I would expect it will cause a revolution - not before time - in printing. And all the people that rely on paper in selling classified ads will have to work out some better way of peddling their ads.
Is the price range suitable for your business?
What I didn't expect was that they would pitch it at such a low price initially. I didn't expect it under US$500. It's outstandingly cheap. The other thing I didn't expect and I'm interested in seeing how they'll release the second version with 3G unlocked - as is will have a major tilt at the phone [companies]. And it's about time.
This is not something to just read books with, this is carrying a library. This means that if you're doing research and tech teaching, your references are available electronically, which means you can go from one book to another without having to carry anything. Students in schools aren't going to need textbooks - that's the clear implication of this device. This is clearly obviously going to happen - if the books aren't available here it's only a matter of time to clearing the mechanism by which they'll be delivered.
Hugo Ortega, principal of Tegatech (PC tablet distributor)
What does the iPad mean to your business and that of your customers?
I think it will propel us into the commercial space, although the [Apple] tablet released isn't the greatest. There are better PC tablets out in the market and that's purely based on specifications.
An organisation's decision to use an iPad will come down to the increased cost in software development. Firstly, the cost of developing an application that sits on the iPad and the synchronisation story - getting information off the iPad and on to their network. With a PC tablet you can take the desktop software install it straight on to a mobile PC and make it mobile immediately without any further development cost.
What are some caveats of the iPad?
Sexy and refined as it is there will be a learning curve and infrastructure expense curve around getting involved with an iPad. HTC outsold the iPhone for many months in Australia; the iPhone was a resounding success but not the death of all smartphone manufacturers.
There are a few features that will make it hard for business users: no USB so users will have to synchronise to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, reducing battery life (and the concealed battery is a worry because if it breaks down you have to send it away for replacement). There's a lack of cameras - mobile PCs have two cameras. The touchpad is finger-only and you can't use a stylus on a comparative touch screen.
What are the device's prospects?
Tablets were developed for mobile use- more so than a notebook - it's an all in-one machine on the road. The iPad will sell well because it's sexy but the lack of functions needs to be revised.
It also incorporates the new A4 processor, which could work well or could crumble.
My opinion is based on tablet specification alone. The iPad is the perfect portal to Apple's three main generators: iTunes, Apps and iBooks. Apple didn't set out to make a perfect tablet but a portal for those three.
And for business users?
Enterprise and medium businesses will struggle to adopt the iPad, with much stronger offerings in the PC space. You don't have to favour PCs, Apple bloggers are also disappointed. Tegatech will stay loyal to PC tablets unless there's a drive from resellers. The bleeding-edge resellers are calling to enquire but there's no groundswell from bread-and-butter resellers. The iPad has a long way to go; it's Apple's first chance and maybe the third generation will be perfect.
Do you have an opinion on the iPad? Does the lack of multitasking and Adobe Flash or a camera inhibit its adoption in the enterprise and with consumers? Or will its sleek sophistication win over the naysayers as the iPhone did? Don't let the conversation end here, sound off below.