Apple Inc. stormed back into consumer electronics in 2001 with its iPod music player, then solidified its reputation as the coolest, most forward-thinking tech company with the iPhone in 2007. The landmark devices have generated an estimated $60 billion in sales, and the halo effect helped revive Apple’s personal computer business.
Now Apple is about to light the fuse on the latest technological smart bomb: its iPad tablet computer that goes on sale Saturday.
The touch-screen iPad is being billed as a device that will change the way consumers interact with computers and the Internet, an all-in-one media reader that many think will breathe new life into newspapers, books and magazines.
But when hopes are high, products can be short-circuited by their own hype. Remember Newton, Apple’s first stab at tablet computing that arrived -- and flopped -- a decade before its time? Or the much-hyped but now little-seen Segway scooter, which Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs himself reportedly said would be as big as the personal computer? We polled a handful of prominent technophiles about how they thought the iPad would fare.
Jack Dorsey, creator and co-founder of Twitter
“I’m most excited about the potential of being able to get closer to data -- to be able to touch data. Being able to use your fingers for every aspect of the experience is something that’s really going to change computing. Don’t necessarily think it’ll be an immediate massive hit like other devices in the past. It’s going to take some time to get used to it. It’s defining a new realm.”
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org
“I suspect that I’ll wait a little longer for a Google tablet. There are a whole bunch coming and they’ll all start off with innovations like multi-tasking [not available on the iPad]. ... I like Apple -- they do great work, but they have rigid control over their application store, and that might give them too much power. [Google’s] Android store is way more open, and I prefer the open approach.”
Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, author of “The Long Tail”
“Tablet computers are going to be huge. They’re going to sell in the tens of millions of units and reset standards on how we interact with digital media and how we pay for it. You could do many things right with the Web, but not magazines. Tablets will allow us to do digital magazines that are intelligently designed, flow correctly and have the artistic intent preserved.”
Bryan Schreier, venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital
“The tablet will enable new businesses and disrupt established ones. There’s a universal interface problem: People have a hard time controlling their TV, their thermostat, even their sprinklers. It is because the interfaces are poor. I think tablet computing offers a better interface to many things you and I have not yet considered. Entrepreneurs are thinking about these opportunities.”
Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time Magazine
“Any new technological form creates new ways artistically and journalistically of doing what we’ve always done. The thing about the iPad is that it’s a work in progress -- it will transform how we do what we do, but until we see how it works and how people use it, we won’t really know. Just the way movie cameras changed the way we covered World War II, video cameras changed how we covered Vietnam and even how Twitter changed the way we covered the Iranian revolution, the iPad will transform the way journalism works. It will become a new way of storytelling.”
John Battelle, founder of Federated Media (BoingBoing.net)
“This is all about Apple creating a channel where Apple has control and Apple makes money. My issue with the whole app world is that they’re all islands, not connected to each other. ... That’s why the Android-based devices and even the Windows devices will become much more valuable over time. Apple’s got a head start in terms of awareness, but the fact is there are 30 or 40 of these devices coming out in the next year, so we’ll see how it all shakes out: It’s a much, much bigger opportunity to be open than to be closed.”