If there is ever any word that best describes Apple it’s showmanship. And Steve Jobs is master at this craft.  With the iPod, Apple re-defined an existing market and launched a product that created the illusion that it would alter the way we did things. In reality, the iPod (including iPod Touch) and all the MP3 and MP4 players that came before and after it, is a music/video player. What differentiated it was the user interface (or software) that made it easy (and sticky) to transfer music, videos and applications (the last two on the iPod Touch). Apple also made it easy to acquire music by creating the iTunes ecosystem – and this is where the real money for Apple comes in – through gut-wrenching profit-sharing agreements with content creators. What’s more, Apple also opened up iTunes for you and me to create content and allow us to be potential “stars” in the Internet. Youtube saw it too (but that’s another story).

Also, Apple didn’t really invent laptops. Its MacBook and MacBook Pros belong to the same family of computing devices that allow users to write, work on spreadsheets, create slide presentations (we call them PowerPoint slides), create home movies, watch movies, listen to music, and surf the Internet. If you have the computing power, you can play nerve-wracking games or designwork. As with the iPod, Apple created this very consumer-friendly user interface – the OS X operating system – that made it almost intuitive to use the device (I say almost because no matter how much she tries, my wife still can’t use the iMac we have at home to do her work. She is Windows-bound forever!).

Apple saw an opportunity when Amazon launched Kindle with some degree of success. This brings us to January 27 at 10am PST when Steve Jobs unveiled the newest offering from Apple – the iPad. In truth, it looks like a very large iPod Touch dressed like a MacBook Pro. What it dropped off from the Touch series is the camera. Instead we have this 9″ screen that allows you to do almost everything else the Touch can do – listen to music, surf the Internet, watch movies, and most importantly, read an electronic book in comfort (something the Touch tries to do miserably) although I have reservations about the reading issue as proponents of eInk say people can’t tolerate the current generation of LCD and OLED for long-term reading. A friend says he can read reasonably well on his iPhone. Personally I would find it hard moving left to right, up to down on my Touch – so I never really use it as a reading device. In fact I can’t watch movies with sub-titles on the Touch – so no original Japanese animae for me.

And as with the Touch and iPhone, Apple created an ecosystem it calls iBooks that allows iPad customers to consume hordes of electronic books offline by buying these online. This is Apple genius repeating itself. For sure, it will create tons of money for Apple from online book sales. If the newspaper content generators can do it right, it should also allow the millions of newspaper readers to consume their daily thirst for news online with the iPad. Sports Illustrated’s purported egazine is a very nice piece of software engineering if they can get it out the door.

So let’s be clear, the iPad is a couch potato’s dream device (well almost). You can listen to music, watch a movie, surf the Internet, write your memoirs, and read a book. It would also be great if it had a tuner built-in so you can watch TV. Then it becomes the American man’s dream – an all in one device where you can sit on your couch, eat chips, drink beer and do just about everything else without standing up.

There is one important caveat though… it doesn’t multitask well. You can’t write your memoirs while surfing the Internet for quick references or cut and paste that favorite youtube video (like I’m doing now).

A few other things it doesn’t have… a built-in camera so you can take those quick photos. But then it would look funny  holding this 10″ piece of metal alloy in front of you to take a picture of someone (just looks really odd).

Apple is not claiming that the iPad will replace your laptop. Heavens no, otherwise it would kill the goose the laid the golden egg – the MacBook and MacBook Pro series – that so many people covet until they figure out that they can’t install that favorite software that was purposely built on the Microsoft Windows platform (oops! Apple marketing didn’t tell you that.).

So if you want to multi-task applications as what most young people (I am still young at heart) do, then you need your laptop or desktop computer beside you. If you like walking about and don’t like carrying anything larger than something you can put in your pocket or pouch (or purse for the ladies), you want an MP3/MP4 player that also happens to be a phone (all smartphones do this, including the iPhone).

If you want something more convenient for reading and also happen to want to surf the Internet, and be able to write those long-overdue memories, this iPad might be the device for you. Word of caution, I have reservations about typing away articles like this on the iPad, as I have to alter the way I type  or press the keys. Otherwise that new glass-surface on the iPad is not going to survive very long. I will also need to keep handy a soft cloth to wipe the iPad screen frequently.

I still want my Tablet PC because I need a workhorce, not a pony, to do what I like to do – writing my memoirs!

Watch this video and see what I never thought could with the done with the iPad.

On another note, there is an interesting discussion about the name for the new Apple device. Quite a few have gender connotations. Its fun reading what a name may mean. I was once part of a brand council and I tell you my American colleagues were so fixated (anal) with the name they choice, ignoring comments from the rest of the world about what the name means in the local language.  

Here are a few of my favorite notes on that Wall Street Journal article.

“The iPad is priced at $499 for a minipad and $829 for maxipad,” posted a commenter on The Journal’s Digits blog.

Also making the rounds in inboxes was an image of a sanitary napkin with Apple’s logo and the slogan: “iPad. Like a tampon. Only more expensive.”

Some professional marketers shared the guffaws. Kim Sample, CEO of 60-staffer New York public relations firm Emanate, said co-workers “sort of snickered – ‘Yeah, you can only use it once a month.’

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