Much parodied, lampooned and occasionally praised, the iPad has garnered much notoriety since it was first unveiled in January. Hopefully endless discussion of the theoretical up and downsides of the controversial product can soon stop though, since Apple has finally announced an official release date.
3 April is the day US citizens will be able to wrap their hands around this giant iPod touch while both WiFi and 3G equipped models will launch in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April. Pre-orders start on 12 March for the US, though no date was given for the rest of the World.
“iPad is something completely new,” said Apple's love him/hate him CEO Steve Jobs. "We’re excited for customers to get their hands on this magical and revolutionary product and connect with their apps and content in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”
Having had some time to cogitate on the iPad since launch I have to admit I still fail to see from where Jobs' excitement stems. The iPad has the same inherent flaws as the iPhone and iPod touch with the bulky, bolt on keyboard impractical and the lack of multi-tasking a huge omission for a platform which claims it can take down the netbook.
Furthermore, the odd choice of the 'micro SIM' card standard means users cannot swap in and out the sims from their existing 3G dongles (surely size wasn't a concern when a standard SIM fits inside the iPhone), memory isn't expandable, there are no USB or Ethernet ports and even GPS is limited to the 3G model. That said, the huge momentum behind the iPhone - and iPhone OS in particular - may still make the iPad a runaway success.
US pricing clocks in at $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB) and $699 (64GB) for the WiFi only edition with 3G a $130 extra, a premium which may have some wincing. That said, iPads cannot be upgraded to include 3G at a later date or connect to a 3G dongle so make your purchase choice carefully. Expect official UK pricing to turn up within the next week or so which may or may not confirm the February leaks that suggest £389, £439 and £489 for the WiFi only models.
In the meantime check out my thorough iPad guide and feel free to praise/flame/contribute to its site record 184 comments!