The iPad revealed: Is it #namefail or #netbookiller?

Engadget demos the iPad

Steve Jobs finally unveiled his latest brainchild, the much-anticipated iPad, at an Apple event in San Francisco just this morning. The technophile rumor mill has been grinding away at top speed over the past few months, as those both in the know, and not so much, have traded speculations over just what Apple's tablet might have to offer. Jobs finally laid the rumors to rest today, outlining the iPad's specs, which include a 9.7" display, up to 10 hours of battery life, and full web capabilities.

Starting at a very affordable, pleasantly surprising $499, the iPad is fully compatible with the iPhone (which will comes as a relief to those who only recently jumped on that particular trend) and can serve as both a user-friendly eReader and a hand (or lap) held media center. How long will you have to wait before you can hold one of these in your grubby, screen-smudging paws? The WiFi version ships in March, while the 3G model rolls out in April.

Larger than an iPhone and smaller than Apple's most compact laptop (Kotaku pointed out that it's the exact size of an Etch-A-Sketch), the iPad will -- according to Jobs -- bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops. The iPad has been touted in some circles as the savior of the printed word. Indeed, major publishers (including Conde Nast, Hearst, and the New York Times Company) have had tablet-compatible versions of their respective publications in the works for months now. But will it live up to all the hype? Is it a netbook killer? For now, all we can do is speculate -- and how.

Here, a few sources in-the-know weigh in (if you can hear them over the cackling of the iPad #namefail crowd):

-David Pogue, of the NYT, tempered fan-boy appreciation with mild criticism, observing: "Overall, the iPad seems like a dream screen for reading and watching—at some loss of convenience in creating."

-Walt Mossberg, of the WSJ, got his hands on the device earlier today, and his reactions were mixed on the upside: "The software looked impressive, and that could help Steve Jobs do the one thing even he has never done in an amazing career: get the public to love not just a better version of an existing type of gadget, but a whole new category of gadget."

-Xeni Jardin, from BoingBoing, gave her 140-char verdicts: "Hands-on positives: pleasing form, like an iPhone crepe. Thin, wide, gave me happy-palms. KB not bad. No cam, no biggie. Neg: lack of USB." She declares the tablet's responsiveness "springy, bouncy, delicious." (Also, she adds, "seems everyone making iPad jokes has forgotten that the best selling game console in the world is straight-up called the Wii.")

-Adam Gopnik, of the New Yorker, naturally ropes Darwin into his response ("what evolves does not necessarily improve"!), and goes on to say: "From what one can discern from the web announcement, it looks like a bigger, flat iPhone, and though I am second to none in loving my iPhone I wouldn’t call owning a larger one necessarily revolutionary."

Some other blogospheric chatter:

-Engadget got some playtime with the device; their initial review is mixed (the good: great ebook-reading experience, zippy CPU, lovely screen; the bad: no multitasking, no camera, no Flash).

-Gizmodo has already bequeathed two big thumbs down, with "8 Things That Suck About the iPad." (Wow, they really hate that bezel.)

-Slashdot revealed what intel they currently have to considerably under-wowed reader feedback.

-The International Business Times speculates on the potential difficulties the iPad may face in marketing itself to consumers loath to tread in the unfamiliar niche territory the tablet has created.

-And hey, if all else fails and the iPad is truly an unnecessary addition to our never-ending cache of technological advancements, Esquire has a few suggestions for, er, alternative uses.

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