Nearly a year ago, we at DisplaySearch blogged about what Apple’s rumored (now launched) tablet would be, including what features it might have and what the display technology would be used. We hypothesized such a device would use a ~10″ LED-backlit TFT LCD display, have high color saturation, and “…a wide viewing angle both horizontally and vertically.” We also ruled out OLED and sunlight readability as possibilities. In November, we commented publicly on these eventualities. So how did things turn out?
Apple’s iPad was officially launched today and features a 9.7″ 1024 × 768 LED-backlit, IPS (In-Plane Switching) TFT LCD display. It is quite apparent that the display technology was of paramount concern to Apple, who noted that they chose it “because it uses a display technology called IPS (in-plane switching), [and] it has a wide, 178° viewing angle. So you can hold it almost any way you want, and still get a brilliant picture, with excellent color and contrast.” In addition to highlighting the display technology, Apple claimed that they have the largest capacitive multi-touch display, with “thousands of sensors” to provide the same touch sensing accuracy that the iPod Touch and iPhone have.
What was not noted in the Apple presentation is that the display is not a wide aspect ratio. It is neither 16:10 nor 16:9, but rather 4:3. In a display world that has “gone wide,” this is unique. More than 99% of notebook PCs use wide displays; you would have a difficult time finding an LCD TV with anything other than a 16:9 display, and more than 80% of desktop monitor displays are wide aspect ratio. So why did Apple choose not to use a wide aspect ratio display? Perhaps they were trying to find a middle ground between the requirements for books, magazines and newspapers and the requirements for video and gaming.
Apple also notes that the iPad uses “arsenic-free display glass” (which is now standard from Corning) and a “mercury-free LCD display” (which is one of the benefits of LED backlights). The front surface of the display is coated with a “fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating,” which was introduced in the iPhone 3G S.
In his presentation, Steve Jobs highlighted a product gap between smart phones and notebook PCs, stating that netbooks are slow, have low-quality displays and PC software, and that the iPad was designed to fill this gap. The iPad will run a version of iWork (Apple’s equivalent to Microsoft’s Office Suite) specifically designed for the iPad, as well as running the hundreds of thousands of apps from the Apple App Store, including games and something called iBooks. The device functions as an e-reader for books, newspapers and magazines. Jobs noted that, “Amazon has done a great job of pioneering this (the e-reader market)… We’re going to stand on their shoulders.” Like the iPhone (a handheld computer that also allows makes phone calls), the iPad is a platform that runs a multitude of applications. It is an expansion of Apple’s portable computing platform, not a single-function device like most e-readers.
The average price for 10″ mini-notes based on the Intel Atom architecture and Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter Edition is $300-350. (Some telecom providers offer subsidized models for much less.) Pricing for the iPad starts at $499 and increases to $829 depending upon the amount of storage and whether it has built-in 3G connectivity. Entry-level iPads will have 16 GB of flash storage and Wi-Fi, while the $829 model will have 64 GB of flash and built in 3G connectivity. All of the 3G-equipped models “…are unlocked, and they use the new GSM microSIMs.” Apple has also worked out a deal with AT&T for no contract data plans at $14.99 per month for 250 MB of data or $29.99 per month for unlimited data.
Much as Apple’s notebook PCs are more expensive than products with similar specifications, it should come as no surprise that the iPad is priced significantly higher than the average mini-note. But Apple positioned the iPad as combining the features of mini-notes, e-readers and handheld gaming devices into one package (platform). What market segment does the iPad fit into? Is it an e-reader? A mini-note? A tablet PC? A handheld gaming device? All the above? Or, is this a brand new device category?