Fool Analysts Debate the iPad

Yesterday I wrote an article spelling out exactly what features Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad had. My initial reaction was that it was more or less a giant iPhone (OK, Touch, whatever), but opinions on the new tablet run the gamut. With that in mind, we asked some of our Fool writers and analysts about their initial reaction to the iPad:

Tim Beyers, Rule Breakers Analyst/Writer: Never thought I'd say so, but I'm officially wondering if Steve Jobs has lost his touch. Maybe it's just temporary insanity. Either way, "iPad" will soon make every list of unfortunate product names. Jobs is a master marketer; he's better than this.

Otherwise, the iPad is a decent product. There are holes, sure -- no camera, no major improvements in the underlying OS -- but Apple has smartly borrowed a page from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . Give developers tools to take advantage of the platform quickly, and then let them make it salable. History has smiled on Windows for precisely this reason.

Also, I love that so many geeks hate the iPad. It's delicious loathing, and perfectly reminiscent of the outcry when Apple first launched the iPod Touch. Once thought to be little more than a lightweight iPhone -- but without the phone -- it's now a top-selling platform for mobile games. I'm expecting the iPad to enjoy a similar fate.

I would have liked the iPad a lot more if it was a stripped-down Mac rather than essentially a stretched iPod Touch. This gadget looks svelte and will fit a certain demographic where style trumps substance, but looks utterly useless for someone like me.

Anders Bylund, Fool Writer: It lacks basic features you might expect from the El Cheapo phones you might find in cereal boxes, like a simple camera, and the ability to multitask is missing in the iPad version of the iPhone OS. Mac OS X can multitask; iPhone OS can't. Bad choice.

The silly thing does have some attractive features such as a purported 10-hour battery life and a premium-quality LCD screen, but the downsides outweigh the limited upside for me. I'd rather zip over to Amazon.com (Nasdaq:  AMZN  ) and pick up a comparably priced real computer in tablet form than drop my cash on an overgrown iPod. Even Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) has a better tablet in my eyes. It just won't draw as many oohs and aahs as the unfortunately named Apple tablet.

Rick Munarriz, Rule Breakers Analyst/Writer: I can't be the only one who hates the name, and not just because of all of the sanitary napkin jokes. For starters, it sounds too much like iPod. In the comical musings of Billy Reid, "Boston's had the iPad since 2001."

I also searched on Amazon yesterday, and the first item that pops up for "iPad" is rival Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) iPAQ -- a PDA.

Now, I can't lie. I'm going to get one. I can't resist, even though I know Apple makes their stuff obsolete in a year. By spring of 2011, I'm guessing this thing will have a camera -- at least a user-facing one for video-conferencing -- since it's one of the few iPhone/MacBook features it lacks.

I don't think it's as revolutionary as Apple would like to think it is, but it's priced aggressively enough to matter. I like how AT&T (NYSE: T  ) is offering up a $30 unlimited data plan on the 3G model without a contract -- nice and cheap because it doesn't have to subsidize the hardware for a change.

I would not want to be investing in handheld video game consoles, e-book readers, and perhaps even cable providers at this point.

Eric Jhonsa, Fool.com Writer: I'd say the biggest thing the iPad has going for it is its instant compatibility with every App Store app. Unmodified, some of these apps will look better than others, but the bottom line is that anyone who's spent time and money building a large app collection for his iPhone or iPod Touch will have a huge incentive to buy one.

The iPad's weight also works in its favor. At 1.5 pounds, it's lighter than almost every netbook, and even many hardcover books. Users should feel pretty feel comfortable carrying one of these things around on a daily basis.

But all the same, I think many consumers will consider a 3G-enabled model to be a must, in order for the device to be useful enough to be worth buying. And at $629 for the cheapest 3G version, plus $30/month in service fees, chances are the iPad will be too rich for the blood of a lot of would-be buyers. Apple would be well-advised to take a page out of the original iPhone launch, and (with AT&T's help) offer lower, subsidized price tags for the 3G iPads shortly after the first units ship.

Seth Jayson, Motley Fool Hidden Gems Co-Advisor: Eric, the apps are the primary problem as well, because people can already fit all those (plus phone calls) in their pocket for less money. And with the 3G model -- and the case which you'll need to keep it from getting scratched -- it'll weigh in near the Macbook Air, which is much more like a real computer.

Rick, you'd better hope there's no camera and video-conferencing coming up, unless you like to look up nostrils. Just do us all a favor and keep the bats out of the cave, my friend. 

I'm with Anders and Tim. The specs really aren't that great. There are 2-pound multitouch netbooks out there with the same battery life that can do real computer work and run video for 8-10 hours. They were all over CES. What they didn't have was Steve Jobs' flair for the overly dramatic, and a captive audience of journalists too deep in star-shock to appreciate the ridiculousness.

I mean, the guy bragged that you could turn it off, come back a month later and use it. Just like the milk in my fridge, I guess. And the art student remark was precious. The SoHo Fingerpaint Academy will no doubt order these by the case. The iBookshelf is an updated knockoff of e-reading programs that have existed for years. And since no one likes reading LCD screens for long, the folks at Amazon are laughing.

Ultimately, this thing will matter about as much as Apple TV -- another product hailed as a killer of cable providers and video game console makers, and another product that no one bought because it didn't do anything better than products that already existed. Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) PlayStation gave a lot more and were already in the living room.

But Apple's biggest problem is itself. With this uninspired move, every iPhone sold means a lost iPad, and vice versa, except for a few Apple fanatics who will buy the thing on release, then keep their iPad in a purse and use it once a month.

David Forrest, VP, International Development: Everyone in the world is weighing in on what they think of the new iPad. I won't bore you with all of my reactions to it other than to say my knee-jerk reaction was "Is that it? It's just a big Touch." That's not a bad thing, the Touch is nice, and the iPad looks beautiful. But, it's not "magical" and it falls well short of what should be possible by now, and what I was personally hoping for as a consumer.

As a jumping-off point, the iPad 1.0 is great, but let's discuss all of the things it should have but doesn't.

  • Multitasking: It's insanely terrible that you're this far down the developmental path with applications and mobile devices and don't allow apps to run in the background. INSANE.
  • Video/Phone: How can you possibly make something this big, thin, and beautiful sitting on a 3G network, and not have an actual telephone? I want to mount this thing on my kitchen wall and have it replace my stupid land line. I want Spacely Sprocket and George Jetson touchscreen video calls.
  • AT&T: Really? Again? You haven't gotten enough complaints from people about how much they hate AT&T to at least consider allowing people to choose their own carrier? What's AT&T offering you for exclusivity? This is not so magical.

Will I end up buying an iPad 1.0? I'm sure I will, if only for the awesome movie-watching capabilities on an airplane. I love Apple and their products. I just hope the elves are working on something much more spectacular for next time.

That's it for our Foolish opinion; have something else on your mind? Leave a comment below!

This article was compiled by Eric Bleeker, who owns no shares of the stocks mentioned in this article. Tim Beyers owns stock and options on Apple. None of the other participants owns shares of the companies mentioned. Microsoft and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (27) | Recommend This Article (32)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 3:30 PM, Johax wrote:

    IPad is poor robbish. The consumers are not so stupid as Mr Jobs seems to believe. This pale apple in never to buy.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 4:54 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    People don't really grok it yet. It'll be huge in a year and ubiquitous in three. Watch and see.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:03 PM, EquityBull wrote:

    Despite the many negative comments here I think Jobs has the vision on this one and you are all missing it by seeing what is in front of you today versus what you will see next year with iPad 2.0.

    If we learned anything from iPhone 1.0 which was missing decent camera, video, slow on the EDGE network, etc we know that Apple deliberately puts out a limited 1.0 version of its products. It knows that first movers (early adopters) will buy it just like all you negative fool writers knocked it BUT still said you WOULD BUY IT anyway! Apple knows this. Jobs is not stupid. People will line up to buy iPad 1.0.

    Right now 2.0 is in the works. It will have multitasking, a camera that can also take video, maybe usb, maybe microSD card slot, maybe iChat built in with forward facing camera. Perhaps book downloads will be free without any network contract like Kindle does. Perhaps it will be offered for $199 with ATT one year contract as price comes down. Think OLED screen for easy reading even if they have two models and charge extra $500 for OLED right now.

    There is so much that they left on the table not because they could not do it or because of cost. This is about product lifecycles, versions and demand curves. I bought iPhone 1.0 for $599 years ago. Look at that phone compared to todays 3GS and also look how many 3GS phones I could get today for what ONE iPhone 1.0 version cost me! Get it?

    This is brilliant by apple and the best is yet to be realized for this product. It has its place in the market. It will grow apple's overall business with marginal cannibalization into the iPod Touch and the MacBook Air.

    While I too am upset by all they left out (intentionally) from the 1.0 iPad I know that 2.0 is not far out and there will be no shortage of lovers and haters who just have to have this product because it is so cool despite any shortcomings. Just read the fools who hate it above yet will still buy one anyway!

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:05 PM, MrArbitrage wrote:

    I'll look silly holding this to my ear trying to make a phone call” is the most common objection I have read in the past 24 hours.

    This may prove that ridiculous trends eventually come back if you grant them enough time. If the iPad takes off, it will be like the “ghetto blaster” of the new millennium. Remember how big those things got in the mid 80’s?

    I assume from the designation “ghetto blaster”, that trend of carrying around an enormous device pressed up against one’s head, must have started in "the hood".

    So maybe Apple should start giving them out in the hood anticipating that the suburban gangsta rapping wannabies will get on board. They can attach them to gold rope chains and wear them around their necks like they used to do with hood ornaments. Now that’s marketing prowess. Lighting just may strike twice. (From http://www.ThurstonHowell.NET

    Seriously though, I do see the concept of an “ebook” as practical and wish them all the success in the world. No malice here.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:25 PM, wrongdog wrote:

    I will buy two--one for me, one for my wife. Both business owners. A giant iPhone sounds pretty great to me, just for the apps alone...heck, just for stock market apps.

    Carrying a laptop everywhere is not practical, but the iPad may be. I can't wait. To me, it is cheap...I paid $400 for my iPhone!

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:26 PM, nadopine wrote:

    Apple's been working on portable devices since the Newton of years past. All have been leaders in that technology area. Hate it or love it Apple will profit off of the public with the must have gadgets they create. First the iPod, then the iPhone, then the iTouch, now the iPad. Watch Apple rack up the bucks again on this product. Shrewd brilliance in exploiting the nature of modern mankind. It's all about one upping the Jones' in the technology market. Consumers will buy the iPad and fund the development of future technologies. Even the naysayers above will buy it. They can't resist. The frugal techno-geeks will wait for gen 2.0 and have less to complain about while the gotta have it first's will upgrade, making more money Apple. If Apple builds it, they will buy it.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:31 PM, brew8160 wrote:

    no flash no thanks...I will wait for gen 2

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:50 PM, TMFTypeoh wrote:

    I agree.....good first try, but i won't buy this until generation 2 comes out.

    I have seen reports of new technology that allow for touch screen to convert in e-ink screens and back again. Once this is available it may threaten the kindle, but not until then.

    Also, the built in keyboard is nice, but for anyone who has ever typed on a iphone/storm knows, its not good for more than a few sentences at most.

    Good first rev, but in the coming months/years they will cut the price and add features. Once that happens, count me in.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:56 PM, artpreble wrote:

    This from The Washington Post:

    Top 10 Reasons The Apple iPad Will Put Amazon's Kindle Out of Business

    That article tells you more about what the iPad is than what it isn't. If only half of the ten items listed take hold it bodes well for Apple. That, plus the likelihood that the iPod will soon work with Verizon makes Apple interesting.

    I'm not a Mac user, but I like their stock and plan to hang on to it for a while.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 5:58 PM, artpreble wrote:

    Oops! I meant iPhone, not iPod. Sorry...

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 7:05 PM, hiddenflem wrote:

    you guys are way too negative on this product. dumb name, yes. but people are going to gobble this up... I think it will take a lot of the netbook market. i have an ipod touch and find the screen too small to really use it effectively for surfing etc...and I'm tired of breaking out a full computer when i'm on the couch watching tv and just wanting to read articles etc. this is just what I've been looking for.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 7:54 PM, ArthurIV4 wrote:

    So, here's a product from a company with a remarkable track record and everyone seems to be intent on determining its fate before it even hits the market...have we become that impatient? Guess that's the way things are today.

    Personally, I am curious. As an architect, I can see some real potential for this in the real world. Why do I need to carry sets of drawings around a job site when I can carry one of these. The industry is moving to 3d and electronic delivery - looks like it has potential to me...

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 8:23 PM, TMFGalagan wrote:

    It's always interesting to me how many people say that they hate the thing, yet of course they're going to buy it. With that kind of loyalty, Apple doesn't *need* to come up with premium products. They can just release normal stuff and let their user base figure out how to turn it into the next big thing.

    dan (TMF Galagan)

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 8:29 PM, kahunacfa wrote:

    I always expect a lot from Steve Jobs and Apple - they usually deliver. -- The ipad will only be successful because the Apply Brand and the faithful, <brainwashed?> will buy it.

    Over a decade ago another strong brand company A.T. Cross(ATX) introduced a revelotionary PDA, it would recognize the user's hand writing, "sort-of", "kind, of", well if you were willing to be patient enough to use the keypad for the ten to fiften percent it could not remember and use the keys. That product did not fly. A.T. Cross could make the elegent pens - just not the software to recognize hand writing. I did try one, if I printed it kind of worked with maybe a 1% to 2% error rate. Just not good enough fro Prime Time.

    The iPad is the same.

    Kahuna, CFA

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 8:36 PM, jomueller1 wrote:

    Equitybull got it right. I am not an early adopter any more because to much trash had to be thrown out and I am tired of it.

    I do not have a desire that the pad could satisfy with it's limitations. The pad is for passive people and the best I could do with it is some research. Using wireless broadband already I would not want to pay for more of the same.

    Though I started the previous paragraph with "I" the names of apple's products starting with an "i" seems to me like pondering selfishness end egotistic sentiments and at the same time is childish.

    Since quite a while I look for a tablet device that I like and may be the pad version 4 will be for me. Smart for apple (but not me) is their product design that does not allow any peripherals, attachments, add-ons, or expansions. It is all apple or nothing. For now I prefer the nothing.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 10:00 PM, liammccusker wrote:

    The fact that we are all giving Apple this much press just makes me want to buy more shares. Let's face it...all this complaining is just going to help them sell more units of their product. And as Apple smartly does with every refresh they will eventually build the product up to have all those capabilities. Their business is about making sales grow and the iPad will help them do that.

    And how about some positive here? No debt, monster cash, products that are easy to use and friendly to the consumer. And they are revolutionizing the personal computer industry whether people like it or not...

    I'm willing to bet half the complainers on this post are probably still stuck on having a 3.5" floppy or double deck CD/DVD player on their desktop that weighs 50lbs...

    Long AAPL...and subscriber to 3 TMF publications (SA, HG & RYR)...

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2010, at 1:09 AM, joshdean wrote:

    A lot of pundits have said the iPad is clever but not revolutionary. That depends on how one looks at it. For instance, the iPod and the iPhone may be said to have been revolutionary in different ways. The iPod was the first product to introduce the masses (not just teens and the geekarati) to digital downloading of entertainment, via its iTunes ecosystem.

    We take this way of consuming media for granted now, but the initial strangeness of this innovation kept many people from embracing the iPod at first. The iPhone put the web in your pocket, in the process fusing self and cyberspace in a bond of 'always-connected' interactive intimacy. Its phone and music-playing features gave it an instant market while allowing consumers and developers to explore and maximize its more radical capabilities.

    Now comes the iPad. Seen strictly from the perspective we've become used to through use of desktops, laptops and smartphones, this device seems more like a compromise than a transformation, a niche product for gamers, old people and students. But think about it this way: the innovations I've mentioned, and so many others over the past 30 years, have been about bringing the networked world closer to us, and we further inside of it. There seems to me to be one more major barrier we have to break through, which we may not even be aware of we're so accustomed to it , and perhaps also because its so subtle.

    Its a subtle as the difference between your bodily interaction with a laptop, your squinting , pinching grasp of your iPhone, and your embrace of the iPad. Its this small difference which may be THE difference between really being immersed in the network and standing at its threshold. In other words, the iPad view may not be the compromise view but the OPTIMAL view. Its this small difference which has kept us from throwing out our printed material, kept publishers from offering hordes of creative new ways to experience multimedia content. Yes, its true there are way too many things the iPad can't do right now, but look down the road to a time when every household will have a tablet and few of these homes will have paper text products numbering more than a handful items. Look a few years further to a time when tablets share all the capabilities of laptops, (except perhaps a physical keyboard, which would be simply remedied with a peripheral) and laptop sales plummet in the face of table form-factor dominance.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2010, at 2:23 AM, heyitsgenewilder wrote:

    I agree with joshdean. Apple's products have a way of making something happen that wasn't really there before. With iPad, they are trying to transform the way most of us interact with the internet (which, with cloud computing, and more and more kinds of jobs revolving around the internet, is evolving more every day into something it wasn't a year or two ago). Don't think of it as "in-between an iPhone and a laptop/MacBook." It is its own thing. And if the power of their brand and the hype gets it into enough people's hands, plus all the existing apps and a surge of new ones, it could (and may) redefine what the internet experience really is, establishing a tablet as viable finally, where other companies were unable to do it.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2010, at 7:29 AM, RagnarRedbeard wrote:

    Color me unimpressed. There is so much it could have been, but isn't.

    No USB port? No card slot? No camera? No TV tuner? No phone?

    All of those things are not only possible, they are done by others already in various combinations. I expect Apple to do it better than everyone else, not worse.

    I'm not seeing how the iPad is enough of a big deal for me to buy one.

    I'm waiting to see if the Entourage eDGe gets anywhere.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2010, at 10:23 AM, Melaschasm wrote:

    An IPod with a 10" screen is not a bad thing.

    Allow me to use flash and skype, with wireless blue tooth, on this device, and I would be looking to buy one when my current cell plan ends.

    Alas, it seems 2010 will not be the year I purchase my first Apple hardware.

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2010, at 12:22 PM, barnett1959 wrote:

    ure the national media is very mixed on the iPad but when have they been right about Apple?You are foolish.

    I have been on the Apple Bandwagon since 1998 long before you folks and so called experts would give the company the time of day. I use my own meter for measurement. My friends and family all on board and many of my clients can't wait as well.

    But why isn't the Kindle and Kindle DX at $229 and $489 too expensive? It does nothing but read books. Its black and white and slow.Try and read one at night, not back light. And if I wanted my iPad to also be a phone I would still be using one of those old Motorola handhelds that you drop off a building and they did not break.

    You will see that when the iPad is released that it will sell faster than Apple can produce them. S

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2010, at 1:08 PM, maxplanar1 wrote:

    To miss the influence of the App Store on the success of the iPad is to miss the point completely. Look at what the iPhone has become as a result of independent developers. Now imagine what they will come up with for the iPad in the home. The iPad will function as a comfortable couch & coffee table device, and developers will code as precisely for this as they have for what the iPhone is - a portable comms and location-sensitive device. It may not seem all that impressive right now, but I have a LOT of confidence that this is a entirely new device platform and a sector-defining flag plant by AAPL. I continue to be long on AAPL for their ability to innovate into new markets.

  • Report this Comment On January 30, 2010, at 3:28 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    The Mac Heads are going to love this. But beyond that, I have a REALLY hard time seeing this get traction in the other 90-95% of the personal computing market.

    It's not a big deal if an Touch or iPhone can't multitask because the screens are so small. But it's going to be a glaring shortcoming on the iPad. It can't run any MacOS software or use emulation to run Windows programs, which has been a big boost to Apple gaining market share. You have to buy all the programs you're going to use from Apple, and their totalitarian policies on banning competitors products is becoming harder to ignore.

    The screen resolution hasn't been scaled up from the iPhone and Touch, which means the picture won't be as sharp and has been described as awful with some apps. The iPhone and Touch also doesn't do HD video, again not a big deal on a pocket-sized device but a notable shortcoming on a larger device. And about the ten-hour battery life - believe it when you see it. In the launch Jobs said the processor could run for ten hours - not the whole device.

    Missing a slot to add memory also makes the pricing less attractive than it appears at first blush. The 16GB models are going to be worthless for anything other than web surfing. If you want to carry movies on that cross-country flight you're going to need the 64GB model. I'm also not won over by AT&T's data plan. Not having to subscribe is the only good thing about it. This will create more unsustainable load where AT&T does have 3G coverage and remind you how badly EDGE blows everywhere else.

    I'm surprised more of the Fools haven't looked at this angle yet, but I think the real motive behind the iPad - and the reason investors shouldn't dismiss it quickly - is bleeding more App Store coin from the Mac Head flock.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2010, at 5:04 PM, BearishKW wrote:

    I'm pretty sure the iPad has been in Buffalo since 2001 as well.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2010, at 10:27 PM, Bloefeld wrote:

    Does anyone remember NEXT? Not everything Jobs touches turns into gold.

    Cheers,

    Bloefeld

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2010, at 2:20 PM, daveefreedom wrote:

    Ipad will be perfect for me, I want to be able go online and read a book when I go on vacation. I can't wait to own one. I can see the ipad becoming hugh, not because of tech geeks but regular people like me.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2010, at 9:36 AM, edjuniored wrote:

    @Bloefeld

    Under Gil Amelio, Apple was desperate for a new OS to replace OS9. They bought Next, and with it came Steve Jobs. Amelio didn't last long after that, Jobs was interim CEO, then CEO. Next OS became OSX. The rest is history. Hardly a failure, I think.

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