Apple may not have used Macworld Expo to announce the iPad, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t present. Cases are all over the show floor and many developers have been happy to discuss their iPad plans. We’ll have more on that later this weekend. But today, IDG held a special event roundtable discussion moderated by Jason Snell (editor of Macworld Magazine) and four other journalists, three of whom have actually had their hands on one. What did they have to tell us about the forthcoming device? Not much at all.
The panelists included Snell, Dan Moren and Ted Landau of Macworld.com, Ryan Block of gdgt, and Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun Times. All but Ted were at Apple’s iPad announcement (they said they’d explain Ted’s absence, but never did), and all had the chance to play with the device for about 20 minutes, albeit not as it’s intended to be used. Apparently, the demo units were high up on pedestals, with Apple employees hovering over their every move. Not exactly the relaxed atmosphere displayed by Steve Jobs on stage.
Each panelist was able to offer his thoughts on the device. Dan pointed out that he was “… surprised by how natural it feels. It makes sense.”
Ryan added that “Everything served the screen.”
When it came time to discuss the wide bezel, only Ryan seemed to have a problem with the empty space, while the others all agreed that it’s necessary to hold it, unlike the iPhone or iPod touch which can be held by the sides with one hand. Andy seemed the most excited with the device, stating that he was impressed with the “… supremely high quality of the build. It really does disappear within in your hand.”
Conversation then descended into a discussion of the App Store, jailbreaking, and a Kindle vs. iPad debate that’s been argued ad nauseam since the iPad’s announcement. Nothing new to report there. But at the end of the event, Jason asked the others what impact the iPad will have in the next five years or so.
Ryan couldn’t see such a device replacing the computer completely. “You can’t be fully productive on a touch screen keyboard,” he argued. “I’m skeptical of seeing a tablet device actually take the place of a computer. It’s not going to take the place of when I need to be productive.”
Ted, however, looks forward to it being useful in other areas. “I’m optimistic of the long term use. The iPad in a more digital home…can become a focal remote control for [using devices] around your house.”
And finally, panelists were asked to sound off on any unanswered questions about the iPad for which they’re seeking resolutions. Support for application multitasking was at the front, as was printing. But also, what is going to specific with the iPad versus common between the iPad and iPhone? Will anything be done with the currently sparse home screen we’ve been shown to really distinguish it from the iPhone? Andy looked specifically to publishing, wondering how easy it’ll be to get content in the iBooks Store. Will it be as hard as getting a song into iTunes?
The discussion ended there. They had no answers, of course, and there was no Q&A session for audience members afterwords (and it was a full audience), likely bouyed by the opportunity to win an iPad, which I didn’t win, sadly). As a result, the iPad Special Event ended up being not all that special. Rather, it was a formal discussion of the same informal discussions we’ve been having since even before Apple officially announced the device. These questions should all be answered within a couple of months. Until then, it should be encouraging to Apple to see that people want iPad information so badly that they’ll pack a room to hear people talk about it even if those people don’t really have anything new to say.