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A First Look At Apple's New Tablet Computer

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A First Look At Apple's New Tablet Computer

Technology

A First Look At Apple's New Tablet Computer

A First Look At Apple's New Tablet Computer

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/123028841/123028834" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the company's latest gadget Wednesday amid a frenzy of media attention. Rumors have swirled about the new touchscreen tablet computer, from what it can do to how it will transform the tech world. Wired.com’s Daniel Dumas tells us if the iPad tablet lives up to the hype.

NEAL CONAN, host:

One of the biggest secrets in tech finally has a name. Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the lid off the iPad just over an hour ago. Half-an-inch thick, weighing less than a pound-and-a-half, the iPad looks something like a giant iPhone and acts like a combination eReader, iPod, computer. Jobs previously called it the most important thing I've ever done.

So what exactly does the iPad do? How much does it cost? Can it live up to all of the hype? What do you want to know about the new Apple iPad? Give us a call - on your iPhone, or otherwise. The number is: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org.

And joining us now is Danny Dumas, an editor with Wired.com's Gadget Lab. He's been watching today's event. He's joining us by phone from his office in San Francisco. Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. DANIEL DUMAS (Editor, Wired.com): Oh, no problem. Nice to have me on.

CONAN: And so I've seen a picture of it. It does look like a big iPhone.

Mr. DUMAS: It certainly does. It's the largest touch-screen device that Apple's ever made. And, yeah, it's - but it's interesting because it's it does a lot more than your iPhone ever could.

CONAN: Well, for example, what does it do that an iPhone can't?

Mr. DUMAS: We'll you can read books on it and magazines and newspapers. And one of the most telling things that they showed off was a presentation from the New York Times. And the iPhone has a New York Times application. You can go on, read articles. But with the iPad, you can read that content in a much more dynamic way. You can access a video on it and you can scroll around a little bit more easily. So it's going to give you a much more rich experience when you read content, like on a newspaper or potentially in a magazine.

CONAN: And what does it not what can't it do that a laptop might be able to do?

Mr. DUMAS: Well, it has a virtual keypad, and that could be kind of a problem. When Steve Jobs is actually was doing the presentation, he tried to type on it, and he was actually making typos while he's saying: oh, its very easy to very easy and simple to type on.

CONAN: So that's a lot of people find that a drawback with the smart phones, too.

Mr. DUMAS: Right. And that might be a huge stumbling block with this product, is that there - they have this virtual keypad. It's not exactly - it cannot replace a physical keypad. That being said, there's an accessory that you can buy with it, that it is a virtual keypad. It plugs into the bottom, but, of course, that makes the iPad a little bit bigger.

CONAN: And a little clunkier, and a little more difficult to use.

Mr. DUMAS: Precisely.

CONAN: Does it have a phone built in?

Mr. DUMAS: Well, it will have a 3G built into it. And what that means is you'll be able to access AT&T's network, but that's only to get data from it. So you won't be able to make a phone call, but you will be able to get Internet anywhere that AT&T has signal. So that's nationwide. And there's going to be different pricing structures for it.

CONAN: And we've also heard that Apple has been in negotiations with various kinds of publishers - you mentioned in the New York Times - who are looking at this is a way to, well, if this does catch on, maybe they can figure out a way to monetize people reading their content.

Mr. DUMAS: Right, right, right. And it's interesting, because, you know, you have the ecosystem of iTunes where you can easily go on and like this enormous marketplace, where you go on and purchase content. And I think magazine publishers are looking to that as a place where they can offer their products and where they can, you know, start making sales again.

CONAN: Of course, it's well to remember that, in fact, the what used to be called the record company's not entirely thrilled with the iTunes model, which forces them to present the product the way Apple wants them to.

Mr. DUMAS: Precisely, precisely. And magazine publishers, I think, have looked at what happened with the record industry and seen the mistakes they made, particularly with sort of fighting back against iTunes and, you know, with DRM, and they're saying well, maybe, you know, maybe this is a smart idea. Maybe this is a way we can sell our products. And then also, they have to understand that iTunes is not only available on the iPad and the iPhone, but it's available on Windows PCs and netbooks and all these devices that millions of millions of people have.

So it's going to be another medium in which to get content out. But it's monetizing that content that's kind of the hard part.

CONAN: Danny Dumas is an editor with Wired.com's Gadget Lab. We know you've got lots of questions about the latest gadget now called the iPad: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org.

Let's begin with James, James with us from Columbus, Ohio.

JAMES (Caller): Yeah. I wanted to ask your guest what they thought was going to make Apple more successful at selling this than other companies. I worked at Intel when they were developing the Intel Web Tablet, and we could never get the cost down. And then we always thought that 3Com and Logitech and Apple and everybody else was making one of these, and we just never saw the business model work out. But yet Apple's been able to do things to, say, the RealPlayer, which was the MP3 player before everyone bought iPods, and now only people think that iPods were invented by Apple.

How is Apple going to take the Web tablet concept, which has been around for 10 years in CES and things, and all of a sudden make it successful?

Mr. DUMAS: Well, I think they're going to use a lot of hype. See, Apple has already this sort of enormous, rabid fan base built into it. And they can generate hype and they can generate excitement about these products. They're also - what they're doing is, you know, they're pricing it very aggressively, too. The WiFi version with - that's on AT&T is going to be costing $630. Then you can go up from there to 830 bucks.

How they're going to make money from that, I'm not exactly sure. I don't know if - Apple will be probably, you know, charging a premium for different sorts of content on iTunes, and they're probably hoping to make money that way, digitally. They're probably not going to make that much money from the hardware.

CONAN: Interesting, their stock dropped, which had, of course, almost doubled over the past year under anticipation of this great new product. But after the announcement today, it did drop a bit.

Mr. DUMAS: Yeah...

JAMES: I remember...

Mr. DUMAS: ...it fell off a little bit, yeah.

CONAN: I'm sorry, James. Go ahead.

JAMES: Yes. I was going to say, when we were working on our product at Intel, we were trying to get it below $300, and we had a $700 price tag that it would retail at, and we thought that just would never sell. And now it seems like the margin that Apple can sell products at is maybe double what you could even nine years ago.

CONAN: Oh, that's when a dollar was a dollar.

JAMES: Yeah, I suppose.

CONAN: James, thanks very much for the call.

JAMES: Thank you for your help.

CONAN: Appreciate it. Let's see if we can go next to George, George with us from San Francisco.

GEORGE (Caller): Hi. We think we were listening from the top, so we're hearing about the keyboard, or a virtual keyboard. But there are a lot of us that also would like to think that it's possible to train an interface to recognize our handwriting. So the question is, can you scribble on this device?

CONAN: Danny Dumas?

Mr. DUMAS: Not as of yet. You can't actually - it doesn't have a - any sort of in-built, you know, handwriting recognition on it. It doesn't mean that that's not on the way, though. It's going to be open for app developers, so I would, you know, suspect that an app developer at some point will make an application where you'll able to take your finger and write on it just as you would with -like a pencil, and have that as something you can buy from the Apple (unintelligible).

GEORGE: So we can hold our breath and write with our finger.

CONAN: Yeah. There you go.

Mr. DUMAS: That's what I'm saying. With this - exactly. There will be no, like, little pen deal, or anything like that.

CONAN: Maybe a quill, George.

Mr. DUMAS: Yeah.

CONAN: Thanks very much.

Here's an email from Ed: As a storyboard artist in Burbank, does this device have the power or ability to run a Photoshop-like program for on-screen rendering drawing, like Wacom - I'm not sure what that is or if I'm pronouncing that correctly - tablets.

Mr. DUMAS: Well, Wacom is an artist tablet, and what that allows you to do is actually render things in, like, a large, like, touch-screen device.

Will it - it has the processing power for that, but the software isn't widely available yet. But I'm sure Photoshop and other, you know, software manufacturers will be scrambling. They probably already are scrambling to make programs for this device. (unintelligible) do that.

CONAN: Let's go next to Rich, and Rich with us from Rochester in New York.

RICH (Caller): Hello. How are you doing today?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

RICH: I was wondering, is there a USB or FireWire? I mean, if I - I don't see the point of this device. I mean, I don't find it that innovative. It's like a big iTouch to me. And the shortcoming for the iPod Touch and the iPod to me - I mean, the iTouch and the iPhone to me is that I can't expand my memory. If I can't - I wouldn't buy this if I could not stick in a USB drive or something like that. I need to be able to see other's content.

Mr. DUMAS: Right. Well, it does have USB, but no FireWire on it. And then the memory is also fixed, so...

RICH: The memory can be fixed as long, as I could connect my hard drive to it. I would...

Mr. DUMAS: You'll be able to do that. Yes. You will be able to connect your hard drive to it and upload things to it. It's also WiFi compatible, so you can upload things to - data. You can upload data to the cloud.

RICH: Would I be able to just, like, access an MP3 or movie on the drive without having to upload it to the iPad itself?

Mr. DUMAS: Absolutely, yeah. As long as you have an Internet connection, you'll be able to do that. And that's one of the points of having 3G on the device, so that you'll be able to access the Internet from more places. So if you have one of those 3G-enabled devices and you're on AT&T's network, you'll be able to upload and download data directly from the Internet, anywhere that AT&T has coverage.

CONAN: Thanks, Rich.

RICH: Yup. Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to Toby, Toby calling from Chapel Hill.

TOBY (Caller): Hi. My question is why is Apple so enamored of AT&T? Why do you have to sell your soul to AT&T to get an iPhone or this iPad?

Mr. DUMAS: Well, that's a very dark question. I don't know - well, I - they've worked with AT&T in the past, and they have a relationship with them. And then also, AT&T is not as headstrong as some other wireless providers such as Verizon, which AT&T - I'm sorry, Verizon and Apple for years have tried to work out a negotiation where they have the iPhone on Verizon's network, but Verizon wants to take a large degree control, and Apple doesnt want to grant them that.

And I suspect the same thing happened with the iPad. They already had their preexisting relationship, and then also Apple can kind of dictate what they want with the iPad on their network, on AT&T's network. So it was I suspect it was it was mostly about a control thing. And as most people know, Steve Jobs has issues with having control over all of his products.

CONAN: A little bit, just a little bit. Toby, good question, thank you.

TOBY: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking with Danny Dumas, who's with the Gadget Lab at Wired.com, about the new iPad announced just about an hour ago. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let's go next to Carl, Carl with us from Covington in Kentucky.

CARL (Caller): Yes. Am I on?

CONAN: Yeah.

CARL: Should I go ahead and ask?

CONAN: You should.

CARL: (Technical difficulty)

CONAN: Well, Carl, clearly not calling on AT&T or Verizon or any of those other wonderful networks, because his call is breaking up and I'm afraid we're going to have to move on. Let's see if we can go next to this is Drew in St. Louis.

DREW (Caller): Yes. Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call. I'm excited about the iPad. However, I'm really looking for a laptop with a regular-size screen, you know, 14 inches. And the biggest touch screen laptop that I can find is 13 inches. I'm wondering when there will finally be a regular laptop with a regular-size screen that is handwriting and touch screen capability, you know.

CONAN: That would be called the iGrail, would it not, Danny?

Mr. DUMAS: Yeah. Or yes, the iGrail would be a that's coming out next summer...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUMAS: ...just in time for the movie season, starring Harrison Ford no. The thing is is that there are going to be devices that are going to be coming out in the next three to four months that have large screens like that. I saw a couple of them at CES. MSI computer has a couple of things that will be touch screen that will look like that, and after, there's the Lenovo. They're the guys who make the ThinkPad series.

The MSI computer that I saw was actually very interesting. It had two screens on it. One was a touch screen, and one was a just a regular LCD. And you're able to interface with the touch screen, but then also type on the keypad on the regular screen. You could toggle back and forth between the two.

The only thing is is that the device was a beta version, so it's not clear if it's actually going to go into production. But there is a lot of demand for devices like that, especially with the touch compatibility. So I would suspect in the next three or four months, you'll see larger devices that are cheaper, with better touch screens coming out on the marketplace.

CONAN: And Drew, you can look forward to that. Thanks for the call.

DREW: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's a question on email from Robert in San Francisco: Can this new product handle Office applications such as Word, Excel, email software, accounting software and so forth? In other words, can it take the place of everything I'm now doing on a laptop?

Mr. DUMAS: Yes, it can. And actually, there is a program called iWorks that does just about all of those things that Apple sort of restructured to work on the iPad. And so, yes, you will be able to do all your Office applications on it. And I think that's kind of what Apple wanted to do with this. They wanted to turn this into a mobile laptop. It doesn't actually, you know, take the place of a, you know, your desktop or even a large laptop. But what it does is it enables you to or it augments your sort of work experience while you're on the road.

CONAN: Well, you mentioned that Apple has this incredible fan base, and that there's been this incredible hype, and all of that's really important. Are people going to be disappointed with this? Or are they going to say, ah-ha! This is everything we expected.

Mr. DUMAS: I think there are certain people who are going to gobble up anything that Apple puts out and call it ice cream. There's going to be some critics, but by and large, the price of their they're pricing it very aggressively. It starts out at 500 bucks. So I think the price is right in that. And that's about the same price as an expensive netbook.

So for the most part, yes. I think that it's going to be kind of like the be-all, end-all device that, you know, it's going to get into the hands of a lot of people. But there will still be a small, but very vocal section of critics, just like there's a relatively small, but very vocal section of fans.

CONAN: Let me ask one question about - that Mac's detractors ask all the time: Does the battery last for more than half an hour?

Mr. DUMAS: You that's the thing. So Steve Jobs got up there and said, with a straight face, that this will last 10 hours in use, and it'll last a month on standby. I'm pretty...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I've got a nice bridge in Brooklyn he may be interested in buying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUMAS: Yes, yes, yes. I got some unicorn-petting techniques I'm going to show him. No - the thing is that with a color touch-screen device, that's very, very difficult to pull off. I mean, my iPhone lasts about six hours of continuous use, and we're talking about devices four times as large, with a screen that's going to get much, much more of a workout. So if that's the case, then, you know, kudos to the engineering team. But if it does half of that, I will be pretty impressed.

CONAN: Danny Dumas, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Mr. DUMAS: Neal, appreciate it.

CONAN: Danny Dumas is an editor at Wired.com's Gadget Lab. He followed the big Apple event today and joined us on the phone from Wired's offices in San Francisco. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

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