Almost two months after promising to ship its iPad tablet device in the United States in March, Apple on Friday did what Apple so often does: It slipped on a ship-date promise. Now, the iPad will start shipping in April instead, and customers who had hoped to preorder the device have to wait until March 12. That said, it's only a small delay: Apple had originally promised to ship the iPad in late March and now plans to ship low-end models on April 3.
"iPad is something completely new," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a prepared statement that apparently attempts to explain the delay. (Reality check: The iPad is really just a slight evolution of the iPod touch and isn't completely new at all.) "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."
Whether customers are actually excited to get their hands on the iPad, however, is a matter of some conjecture. Some analysts expect the device to (virtually) fly off shelves, whereas others are more cautious, noting that the shipment delay is tied to production problems that will limit initial availability. Plus, there's the fatigue factor: Apple makes wonderful devices, sure, but the iPad is simply another thing that offers basically the same functionality and accesses the same services as Apple's other products. Is there really a need for such a device?
Apple is also risking consumer confusion by offering a whopping six versions of the device, three of which will begin shipping on April 3. The remaining three models feature 3G wireless functionality and will ship at a later, still undisclosed date in late April. And speaking of waiting, Apple announced that the iPad will also ship in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in late April. (In Apple-speak, that means starting in May in limited numbers only.) The rest of the world will have to wait even longer.
One thing we can count on, of course, is Apple's quasi-religious user base, which will show up, credit cards in hand—as always—to get the iPad off to a stellar start. And with a tiered release plan in place, iPad sales should steam along nicely throughout the year, assuming that early reviews are favorable. Who am I kidding? Of course they'll be positive! High-profile journalists from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today virtually guarantee positive reviews for all Apple products, regardless of cost or utility. And anyone who disagrees with these reviews will simply be labeled as "haters"—yes, by those same reviewers. That's where we're at in technology reviews, circa early 2010.
But if you're curious about how the iPad really works, stay tuned to the SuperSite for Windows (http://www.itprotoday.com). I'll be providing a reality-distortion-field-free review of the iPad next month.