washingtonpost.com
iPad: Apple's tablet announcement

Rob Pegoraro
Fast Forward Columnist
Wednesday, January 27, 2010; 3:00 PM

After months of rumors, Apple has finally announced its much-hyped and long-awaited tablet computer, the iPad.

Check out Rob's live blog updates.

Fast Forward columnist Rob Pegoraro was online Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 3pm ET to take questions about Apple's announcement and offer his first impressions of the iPad.

A transcript of the discussion follows.

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Rob Pegoraro: I'm here in San Francisco, just saw the iPad unveiling and had the chance to put my paws on the device. What can I tell you about it?

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Silver Spring: Okay, it's cool. Could be cooler. It's cheap for what it is.

It's more tempting than an iPhone with no pesky contract.

It's a LOT nicer than a netbook and has the 3G thing.

But I won't buy the first version. The second is always always better. I can wait.

Rob Pegoraro: Funny you mention netbooks - the one I'm typing on has been a real nuisance today, thanks to its slow processor and lack of a backlit keyboard. But I suspect you're right about the difference between the 1.0 and 2.0 releases of this device... or of any other gadget.

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Ludditeville: How many years do I have to wait before an iPad, or its successor? Will it be a true portable substitute for the speed and reliability of Web browsing I currently experience with broadband at home?

Rob Pegoraro: It's funny you mention fast reliable browsing, that's not quite the situation here. The iPad will ship in 60 days, a version with 3G wireless will ship 30 days after that.

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Danvers, Massachusetts: Will the iPad support MS Exchange?

Rob Pegoraro: Apple didn't say. But since the iPad runs the iPhone operating system--which already syncs to Exchange Server 2007--I would assume the iPad would too.

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Alexandria, VA: So, no mention of a possible iPhone for Verizon Wireless at today's orgy? Hopes were high, especially with the AT&T exclusive contract about to expire.

Rob Pegoraro: Can I say "I told you so"? Yes, I can. There wasn't any one-more-thing this time around, unless Apple just snuck one on their press-releases page (which seems Slashdotted at the moment--not coming up for me at all).

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weight issue: This is not a portable device. At 1.5 lbs it weighs almost as much as a 15 inch laptop, doesn't it?

Rob Pegoraro: Where have you been buying your laptops, my friend? The lightest netbooks I've seen weigh in at around 2 pounds, but at that weight you only have a 9 or 10-inch screen--same size as the iPad.

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Washington DC: Is this just a bigger, more expensive iPhone? What's the difference? I don't get it.

Rob Pegoraro: I was getting that sense for a while during the presentation, up until the e-book part of the deal. That could change things up, although I'm not sure about the ultimate readability of a backlit LCD compared to e-ink.

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DC: How does it compare in size with a kindle or a nook?

Rob Pegoraro: It's about the size of a Kindle DX, bigger than Kindle 2 or a Nook.

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Brooklyn, NY: How's the virtual keyboard for typin'?

Rob Pegoraro: The keys seemed big compared to those on this netbook and look sized and spaced for touch-typing, but I bet it will take some practice before you can hammer out, say, a blog post on the thing.

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Chesapeake, VA: Did you have the opportunity to try the iBooks feature? If so, was it easy to read books? Did Apple state how many books would be avaialble for purchase?

Rob Pegoraro: The iPads on display include a copy of iBooks, but it's very limited--the store and book search weren't enabled. But I did open an e-copy of Ted Kennedy's memoirs and flip through a few pages. That's the biggest difference between this and an e-ink reader: you *can* flip through pages, rapidly--either by swiping a finger left to right or just tapping the current page.

Oh, Steve Jobs just walked by on his way out of here. He said hi and thanks for reading. (Actually, he didn't. But I'm sure he was totally thinking that.)

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Atlanta, GA: Seems like springing for the 3G would be a necessity, since so much of its functionality seems to be web-based.

Rob Pegoraro: Maybe not if you live in a sufficiently wired area (like, say SoMa in San Francisco). But that's where the prepaid issue makes this a different proposition from the usual mobile-broadband-enabled gadget: You only need to pay for 3G if you need it, and based on how much you might need it. That $15/250 MB plan, for example, *might* be a useful backstop to WiFi access.

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Washington, DC: Any hint of multitasking?

Rob Pegoraro: None, zero. It uses the same background-notifications software as the iPhone.

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Olney, MD: OK, lack of Flash support is a huge oversight, but consistent...lack of GPS could be explained by its being more purposed as a home than a mobile device. But no webcam? What were they thinking??

Rob Pegoraro: Correct, no Flash. Apple has made up its mind about that. The WiFi-only model doesn't have GPS (though it can locate itself from nearby WiFi signals, same way the iPod touch does now) but the 3G model has assisted GPS, per Apple's spec sheet.

The lack of a Webcam seems odd in a portable computer, but maybe not in a tablet--you'd have to hold it in up in front of your face to have a conversation with anybody, and it's too big to use a camera.

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New York: I work for a newspaper. My colleagues insist this is the thing that will "save" us. I remain skeptical. Thoughts?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm skeptical too. Selling reader apps like the NYT's reader software could help, but it's going to be a while before the installed base of this thing gets big enough to allow for meaningful revenue. So we've all still got work to do on our regular sites, our mobile-phone sites, our e-book editions and so on.

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Long Island, NY: So, this iPad is basically a 10" iPhone that runs the same OS, but has iBooks, and scraps the phone and camera?

Rob Pegoraro: Not a bad summary of it. But... will software written for the iPad become a sort of middle ground of productivity and entertainment between the laptop and the phone? Apple is betting on that happening, but a lot of other things have to happen first. Let's not forget here that it's the same App Store as before, so you could have issues getting apps approved.

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Portland, OR: They said the 3G version would be unlocked. Does that mean that we could sign with other providers if plans pop up?

Rob Pegoraro: Exactly. You could buy a prepaid SIM from another GSM carrier--sorry, no Verizon or Sprint options--and use that instead.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Rob, Can I connect a printer, or portable hard drive to the Ipad?

Rob Pegoraro: The only connector on it is a proprietary 30-in slot on the bottom, which connects to a computer, the two docks Apple showed off and two camera-connector pods (one with a USB port for a camera's cable, one with an SD Card slot). I suppose you could make a printer connector, but I don't know of any support for printing in the iPad software.

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Lack of Flash: is a HUGE win for reliability. I work wth programmers who are struggling to put Flash on a device with a baby chip, and it causes all kinds of hideous problems.

Worth waiting until Flash gets more stable on wahtever chip they're using.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm not always that fond of Flash on real computers!

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Washington, DC: Can you make a phone call and text with it?

Rob Pegoraro: Not out of the box--the 3G plans available are data-only. It does, however, have a speaker and microphone, so an Internet-calling app like Skype could work.

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DC: Did you get a demo iPad to keep?

Rob Pegoraro: Don't I wish! BUt that's going to have to wait until 60 days or so--"late March" is Apple's estimate.

(Sorry about the dropout; my wireless connection just dropped)

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Rob Pegoraro: Speaking of which, that was why we started late--I couldn't get to the site at all. This day has reminded me of what can make CES so much "fun"

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Jacksonville, Fla.: Will the iPad have ability to use PDF files?

Rob Pegoraro: Yup. Remember, it's iPhone software underneath, so anything you can open, read or play on an iPhone should work here.

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Arlington, Va.: Can you say "Newton?" At $500 a pop for the cheapest model, there is no way that this thing is going to fly.

Rob Pegoraro: It's worth remembering that not everything Apple does turns out to be an instant hit, or a hit of any sort. E.g., the Newton but also the Power Mac Cube and the Apple TV.

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College Park, MD: Sorry, but I just don't get why this would be better than a netbook. I already read ebooks (free Sony Reader software) and listen to music on my netbook, along with email, web browsing, misc software for work, etc.

Rob Pegoraro: Most of the uses you mentioned don't involve that much typing--so in those areas, the iPod could be decent competition. OTOH, as a reporter I'm a little skeptical about the utility of this thing as a writing tool (and not just because our editing software requires OS X or Windows).

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Kenmore, WA: So what does iPad actually do? No flash, no phone, no webcam and can't print? Small HD (16-64GB) so can't store much, so not useful storing movies to watch when travelling? The battery supposedly lasts 10hrs, but since all the light, is it realistic? So what part of my life would iPad make better/easier/more fun? ;-)

Rob Pegoraro: Here's a thumbs-down on the device...

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Phoenix, AZ: I keep hearing the complaint: "it is just an oversized iphone." but not sure I understand the complaint: big, clear touchscreen, large number of apps I already own will work, but instead of cramped space, something readable. If I buy one of these for the home, there are going to be fights over it.

Rob Pegoraro: ... and a thumbs-up from a different part of the country.

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Federal Triangle: The only thing that has held me back from purchasing another ebook reader is lack of capability to read comic books/graphic novels. Any initial impressions as to the possibility the Ipad will have the potential for this?

Rob Pegoraro: That's one area where existing e-book readers work very poorly--the graphics in graphic novels don't adapt well to low-resolution, 16-shades-of-gray e-ink screens. The iPad's screen is 1024 by 768 pixels, which is extremely high-resolution for its small size.

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Silver Spring, MD: Still trying to think of when I would ever want to use this. Too big to be very portable unless I am carrying a briefcase or backpack. Would be nice to have in the living room when my computer is in the study and I can use WiFi. The problem is that a 1.5 lb tablet only works in a curled up, comfortable setting. I'd hate to do a lot of gaming hunched over like that.

Rob Pegoraro: One thing I'll be mulling over for a while about this is not "what" or "how" but "where": a tablet device doesn't make sense for standing-up use, but on a couch in a living room or a coffee shop--or on a plane or a train--I could see it fitting in.

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Smithtown, NY: How disappointed was everyone attending the event when Apple didn't release a Verizon iPhone?

What's your thoughts on the lack of a Verizon announcement, and the possibility of a Verizon iPhone?

Rob Pegoraro: Not surprised. Those of you who have been pining away for that possibility--please, I implore you, get on with your lives already! Either dump Verizon or get an Android or webOS phone.

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wiredog: I think it's intended to get/keep all it's data in the "Cloud".

Rob Pegoraro: Cloud services are a big part of the proposition, but Apple spent way too much time talking about its local apps and storage to make this a cloud-centric device on a par with a netbook running Google's Chrome OS. This company likes the cloud, but it's not betting its future on it.

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Rob Pegoraro: OK, gang, I have to sign off--I have to eat some sort of food before I pass out, then I have a column to write. Thanks for all the questions!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

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