Apple IPad Charges at Kindle and Netbooks

Tablet Will Stir Up Lots of Change, but Who Will Benefit?

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Credit: Apple
NEW YORK ( -- Yes, it's an iPad.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs finally introduced the company's long-anticipated tablet computer today, and gave it a name no one seemed to like, at least initially.

But he also gave it an unexpected price -- $499 for the entry-level version -- which will allow it to tear head-long into two lucrative consumer electronics categories: the e-reader, now dominated by Amazon's Kindle, and the new generation of low-cost laptops called "netbooks," which Mr. Jobs has repeatedly derided.

Mr. Jobs, who collected a standing ovation from much of the crowd at his presentation today even before he presented anything, also introduced a new app called iBooks, at one point showing an image of the black-and-white Kindle on the big screen behind him just to drive home the iPad's superior aesthetics.

"Amazon's done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle," he said, according to one live blog of the event. "We're going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further."

The entry-level iPad is quite a bit more expensive than the $259 Kindle, which has a six-inch black-and-white display, compared with the iPad's 10-inch, multitouch screen. But the price is in-line with the $489 Kindle DX. Prices for the iPad escalate to $829 for 64 gigs of memory and 3G connectivity to go with basic Wi-Fi.

Media on the iPad
Much was made during weeks of hype leading up to the news conference of the impact on magazines, many of which have already been working on tablet versions. But Mr. Jobs didn't give them as much as a shout-out, though the websites of National Geographic and Time showed up early when Mr. Jobs showed off the iPad's Safari browser.

"My big question: Will the iBooks store support magazines or graphics-intensive books?" said a magazine editor in attendance. "And how about subscription models?"

Monica Ray, senior VP-corporate strategy and development at Time Inc., declined to comment on the presentation itself but had good words for the newly revealed iPad. "There were a lot of expectations around it and I think they met if not exceeded them," Ms. Ray said. "We're really looking forward to working with Apple on this great new channel of distribution for us."

The New York Times made its expected appearance in the presentation, looking slick as a tablet app that will let people save stories to their iPad and play video, among other things. Times executives did not offer details on how and when it will sell that edition, however, and the company later declined to elaborate.

Media buyers said the iPad seemed very promising for traditional print publishers but demurred when asked those publishers' hope to charge higher ad rates for their tablet editions than they do in print.

"I do think that the tablet is going to be another revenue source," said Brenda White, senior VP and publishing activation director at Starcom Worldwide. "The way I'm looking at it, it's another distribution point. It's going to be a more robust experience for the consumer and to me that's going to lead to increased readership and increased audience."

Whatever happens next, on launch day the iPad seemed to many people like the only thing going on in the world. By midafternoon the device was appearing in 10,000 tweets every five minutes, according to Nielsen.

But not everyone was blown away. "As it stands, a quick, well-structured response from Amazon in the next version of Kindle could easily be a contender here," Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said in a note. "That's why I say that the iPad is priced lower than expected because it is less revolutionary than expected."

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