Did the iPad Deliver?
Steve Jobs had barely left the stage in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts after announcing the iPad and the complaining began on blogs and on Twitter. Just like the rumors and speculation that preceded the announcement, the post-announcement complaints began to take on a life of their own.
However, one mobile products analyst insists that the device will be a hit going forward and the only reason it's being perceived by some as a failure is because it wasn't what all the bloggers, analysts and pundits wanted.
"A lot of people were disappointed because it did not meet their own agenda," said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis. "No one has succeeded in the in between space between a smartphone and a laptop, but I think this will in the long term."
He expressed frustration with people claiming to have been briefed on the device in the weeks running up to the launch as well. "Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) doesn't brief anyone in advance. I spoke to Phil Schiller [Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing] at the launch and he said no analysts were briefed in advance," he said.
(Web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis punked the press by spilling supposed features of the device the night before launch on Twitter. The features were a ludicrous grab bag facial recognition and solar panels but several news outlets ran with it. Now Valleywag is having a grand old time ridiculing them for being taken in.)
It did seem like there was a new research report almost daily from financial analysts, almost all of whom were completely wrong. One of those areas talk that Apple would add Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) as a carrier. The problems with AT&T (NYSE: T), Apple's exclusive partner for the iPhone, are well-documented and user loyalty to the device is the only thing that keeps people from switching carriers.
So there was plenty of moaning when Jobs announced a 3G wireless plan with AT&T only. Greengart wasn't surprised and said there are two issues surrounding Apple's wireless partners.
First is the contract. Neither AT&T nor Apple have said when their contract expires. A Wall Street Journal report last year, citing unnamed sources, said it expired this year, which is repeated all over the blogosphere as fact. However, when the iPhone launched in 2007, USA Today reported the deal was for five years.
Either way, "people are definitely guessing," said Greengart.
LTE, fourth-generation wireless technology
Secondly, there is the network. AT&T's network is GSM, which is widely used around the world. Verizon's is CMDA, which is used only by Verizon and in Korea. Greengart said Apple is not going to make a second phone, especially if it only sells in two countries.
"Apple builds hardware once and tries to sell it in as many geographies as possible. A CDMA phone doesn't fit that goal. If Apple is going to be on Verizon, it will be in the LTE timeframe. I don't see Apple investing in CDMA," he said.
LTE, Long-Term Evolution, is a fourth-generation wireless technology that Verizon is planning to begin rolling out this year, but it will take at least two years to deploy. If the AT&T deal is five years, then it would end around the time LTE deployment concludes in 2013. AT&T is also expected to deploy LTE, so Apple could offer one phone on two carriers. But that's not for three years.
For now, Greengart thinks people need to cool off and let go of their own expectations and experience the device for what it is. "Give people a few months to get over it and see the product. While it doesn't hit a home run in the experience, it should be good enough to get that product off the ground. As Apple starts cost reducing in 2011 and 2012 it's going to sell like mad," he said.
He expects Apple will introduce a new iPhone this summer with the peppy A4 processor used in the iPad, thus bringing that device up to speed, so to speak, and then add multitasking to the operating system for both the iPhone and the iPad this year.
Indirectly, he also thinks the iPad will benefit Apple's MacBook and iMac GPU provider nVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA), even though nVidia has no silicon in the iPad. nVidia has the Tegra 2, an ARM-based processor with nVidia GPU that is similar to Apple's own A4 processor.
"The Tegra 2 is a beast of a processor with a low power draw. You can be assured Apple's competitors will be snapping those up to compete against Apple. By legitimizing the category [of tablets], in many ways Apple is helping nVidia," said Greengart.