January 27, 2010: It's unclear which speech people paid more attention to, President Obama's State of the Union address or Steve Jobs' State of Apple Gadgetry exposition. The occasion, for Jobs, was the unveiling of the long-anticipated Apple "tablet" computer, now officially dubbed the iPad.
Starting in April or May 2010, the entry-level iPad will go on sale for a price of $499 (breathtakingly low; predictions of $999 had been heard).
Among the iPad features that aren't carried over from the iPhone and iPod Touch is the exquisite iBooks app pictured above. Jobs intends to do for the eBook business what Apple did for the online music business: become the source of choice and make competitors (primarily the Amazon Kindle and Kindle DX, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the various devices in the Sony Reader series) eat Apple's dust.
In fact, if Jobs' latest venture takes hold, we'll have to start calling them iBooks instead of eBooks!
The iPad outsizes most of its book-reading competition. At roughly 7 1/2 inches wide, there's enough space for a 768-by-1024-pixel color touchscreen with a diagonal measurement of 9.7 inches.
The $259 Kindle is 5.3 inches wide, with a 6-inch-diagonal screen.
Lacking a touchscreen, it devotes much of its overall size to a keyboard.
The $259 Barnes & Noble Nook (which I myself own) replaces the Kindle keyboard with a color touchscreen, but its non-touch E Ink reading screen is exactly identical in size and function to the Kindle's.
Sony's largest book reader, the $399.99 Reader Daily Edition, is 5 inches wide and has a close-to-full-height reading screen — again, non-touch.
Sony's $299.99 Reader Touch Edition sports a true (albeit non-color) touchscreen, but at a width of just 4.8 inches, the device is diminutive by comparison to the iPad.
The Kindle's big brother, the $489 Kindle DX, is 7.2 inches wide, offering a reading screen whose diagonal spans 9.7 inches, exactly as does the iPad's.
The Kindle DX is taller than the iPad to allow room for the physical keyboard. Its screen is non-color and non-touch.
The iPad puts its keyboard on the color touchscreen when one is needed.
To my mind, the Kindle DX, due to its generous size, is the book reader to which the iPad is most comparable. So, at $499 versus $489 for the Kindle DX, the iPad looks like it could become the book reader of choice for Apple enthusiasts and maybe the world at large.
Here again is the iPad with its elegant iBooks app:
One iPad advantage over its book-reading competition: you can rotate the iPad into landscape position to show two pages side by side. I can't find an image to prove that, but you'll see it very briefly here in Steve Jobs' introduction to the iPad as an iBook reader and to the new Apple iBooks store that will supply it with content:
You can watch the entire 1-hour-33-minute video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPad by visiting this web page.
I'll have more to say in Part II of this post.