Apple’s iPad an unbridled hit

In the 20 years I have been penning this column, I’ve been wrong more than a few times.

In the 20 years I have been penning this column, I’ve been wrong more than a few times.

I wrote in 1996 that “the last one to leave America Online should shut off the router,” only to find AOL still has millions of people using dial-up modems today to access — something.

But earlier this year, I wrote a less-than-enthusiastic column about Apple’s iPad, wondering where the market would be for an overpriced, underpowered tablet that couldn’t multitask and couldn’t display Flash content on the Web.

Well, 10 million iPads later, Apple has a hit on its hands and I have some egg on my face (and my third iPad on the way).

This thing is an unbridled hit, the fastest-selling electronics device in history.

(It is even more relevant after the latest software upgrade, which allows basic multitasking.)

Sales remain incredibly hot this holiday season, even though everyone knows the newest version of the iPad is coming out next quarter. So what is all the fuss about?

Apple’s iPad comes in two flavours, one that connects to only WiFi networks and one that connects to Wifi and AT&T’s cellular network.

Both come in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavors. (Some folks with poor AT&T reception are buying the cheaper WiFi-only version and using Verizon’s MiFi device to connect to the cellular network, a combination now sold in Verizon stores.)

The effect on the computing world has been staggering.

The iPad is murdering the netbook market, as consumers are discovering they can do everything with an iPad that they could with a portable netbook.

Everyone with a Kindle, a Nook and other e-book readers has looked over and gone “whoa,” with the iPad waltzing into that market, too.

In a poll of 2,800 consumers, ChangeWave — a technology-research subsidiary of InvestorPlace Media — found that Amazon Kindle’s market share sank from 62 per cent in August to 47 per cent in November, while the iPad’s rose from 16 per cent to 32 per cent over the same period.

The lowly PC is not immune, either. Experts say the “iPad effect” is causing a 10 per cent drop in traditional computer sales.

(And this is before the latest version of Angry Birds comes out.)

This means something huge for content providers: a whole new platform.

Some think the iPad is the saviour of print journalism as publishers rush to develop iPad versions of newspapers and magazines.

(A new version of Apple’s operating system will allow an easier way to pay for content.)

It turns out lots of people are willing to pay for great-looking, compelling content if it takes advantage of the iPad’s glorious screen.

What of the latest iPad?

Apple doesn’t talk about anything, but the latest rumour is an April release of the iPad2, with more storage, a lower price and cameras for Web camming and video calling. Should you wait? That is pretty personal.

From the looks of it, many other people aren’t: The iPad is one of the most sought-after gifts of the holiday season.

Think how popular it would be if I had been supportive early on.

James Derk, a tech columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, owns the computer-repair firm CyberDads. Contact him at jim@cyberdads.com

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