After months of speculation and weeks of rumors flying around the Internet, Apple finally unveiled its tablet computer Wednesday in San Francisco.
"We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product," CEO Steve Jobs proclaimed as he introduced the iPad. He didn't want to play down any of the hype that had built up before its unveiling.
Here are the basics of the iPad: It's got a 9.7-inch touch screen and a big virtual keyboard. It uses an iPhone operating system and it runs iPhone apps. It doesn't make phone calls and it can't take photos. The iPad connects to iTunes, which will have a bookstore for users to fill the the iPad's lovely color e-reader.
There was no major new technology, which meant it got a big ho-hum from some analysts.
"The iPad had the opportunity to create a completely new consumer device category, and it didn't," said James McQuivey of Forrester Research. He was hoping Apple would create a device that took advantage of social networking.
For example, imagine you are in Paris with the family. You want to send photos to Grandma back in New Jersey. McQuivey was hoping Grandma could turn on her iPad and voila — there would be pictures.
"People across multiple generations could say, 'I want an iPad because it helps connect me to my friends and family in a way I can't right now.' This device doesn't," McQuivey said.
Not everyone is quite as disappointed as McQuivey. Gartner analyst Michael McGuire points out no one was terribly excited about the first iPod, either. He thinks Apple is looking at the iPad as a starting point, just like that first iPod.
"It grew and they iterated it quickly. I think they might be looking at that same kind of cycle," McGuire said.
Part of the growth of the iPad depends on outside companies writing new apps. McGuire admits that if the iPad is going to kick off a revolution, that wasn't evident Wednesday.
And with a price tag between $499 and $829 — plus the option of a monthly data plan bill that's as much as $30 — it's not clear that Apple has given consumers a reason yet to buy an iPad.