SCOTT STEINBERG (VIDEO GAME EXPERT)

Scott Steinberg, lead technology analyst for high-tech consultants TechSavvy, and an internationally-acclaimed technology expert and video game guru who’s covered the field for 400+ outlets from ABC, CBS and CNN to The New York Times, Playboy, Rolling Stone and USA Today.

Q: What are your impressions of the Apple iPad as a computer tablet, compared to others, e.g. Lenovo’s U1?

A: On the one hand, as an entertainment device, it looks to be a great piece of kit. For purposes of surfing the Web or enjoying streaming multimedia and music, movies, photos, eBooks and bite-sized apps, I suspect it’ll be a hit. But as a pure computing device, I’m not blown away by the decent, but hardly revolutionary tech specs; virtual keyboard; inability to multitask; dearth of Flash support; and lack of overall expandability. Let’s face it: Road warriors aren’t likely to seek out this system as a laptop replacement. But as sexy as the device is, and as suitable as it’ll prove for a variety of different functions, coupled with the system’s touchscreen interface, wealth of downloadable third-party software add-ons and Apple’s backing, it’ll definitely make some market inroads. My best guess? Unlike systems such as the IdeaPad U1, you’ll find it used less as a specialized business machine than all-purpose high-tech solution, with the most likely buyers digital entertainment buffs who’ll also want to take advantage of some basic incremental computing applications.

Q: Since Apple is submitting themselves into the tablet market, why would they exclude Flash support or even multitasking? Do you think Apple’s decision was based on marketing the 10 hour battery?

A: I think Apple’s doing all it can to keep costs low and battery life manageable without compromising software compatibility. There’s also the elephant in the room that is the issue of the company trying to avoid shooting itself in the foot by opening the door to a competing platform for the development, delivery and serving of applications that could be introduced outside of the App Store and Apple’s control. But there’s no reason whatsoever Flash support couldn’t be added outside of corporate chicanery, and its lack of a presence on the system certainly robs users of one of the Web’s greatest treasures.

Q: Why do you think Apple excluded cameras on the iPad? Now that web cams are a standard addition on laptops and even netbooks, should tablets also come equipped with them?

A: The answer is likely twofold: Cost and compatibility. Apple likely has plans to introduce a camera in future updates, and would prefer a more controlled approach to introducing the killer app that is videoconferencing vs. allowing third parties to create apps that haphazardly support it before the hardware/online infrastructure may truly be ready. Let’s put it this way: Knowing how powerful a sales point it could be if the iPad were to act as a portable communications center, if I were Steve Jobs, I’d certainly want to wait until I had all my ducks in a row, and a very polished method for accessing this feature ready to roll out, before I’d want people to go hands-on with it. That said, yes – it should be a standard feature on all portable computers, tablet PCs included, going forward.

Q: Are you going to be picking up an iPad for yourself? Or are you going to wait, since Apple usually releases new iterations of their products annually?

A: Undoubtedly, I’ll grab one at some point, being a gadget freak and Internet addict who constantly surfs while sitting on the couch no matter what’s on TV. But on day one, while prices remain high, bugs yet to be worked out and features still to be improved on? No thanks. Besides, as much as they’re asking for a device with so few bar-raising, must-have features in the immediate horizon, it’s going to take more than a few months to convince the wife, especially given the current state of the economy, why we should shell out for one. Let’s face it: No one needs an iPad, let alone this early in the game. But as anyone who owns an iPhone can tell you, it’s still a pretty darn tempting proposition.

Q: Was this the best time for Apple to release a tablet?

A: The best, well Who can say for certain? But it’s certainly an opportune one – well in advance of Apple’s most storied competitors, early in the year when there’s not a lot of rival products vying for the press/public’s attention, and at the height of Steve Jobs’ reign and supporting fan enthusiasm. Then again, there is the little matter of that aforementioned recession

Q: Why do you think Apple chose AT&T as their data plan carrier, even with all the data issues that AT&T has been having?

A: A combination of pre-existing relationships, lucrative licensing deals and the fact the device is most likely to be used in the vicinity of wireless networks and WiFi hotspots that may well ensure that it doesn’t prove as much of a drain on 3G bandwidth, negating some of those embarrassing and frustrating data transfer issues.

Q: Why price the 3G version $130 more than the wifi version? Why not offer the 3G chip and charge the user the fee when they decide to activate it?

A: Today’s shopper is more value-conscious than ever, and mindful of where every penny goes. Any option to provide what is or appears to be a more affordable entry model goes that much further towards driving purchase intent. And with such an unproven device, and in an upstart product category at that, it’s imperative that Apple gets the machine in as many people’s hands as possible to quickly generate enthusiasm for the tablet and reach critical mass.

Q: Was there anything that you didn’t like about the new iPad? Is there anything you would like to change or add to Apple’s new tablet?

A: What I don’t like is that it’s essentially just a larger iPod Touch/iPhone without the ability to call or videoconference; doesn’t provide access to value-priced digital video bundles capable of supplanting your monthly cable subscription; the fact it doesn’t support Flash and multitasking; and otherwise offers no true must-see, revolutionary features. If I had to change anything, I’d immediately get more communications capabilities and traditional laptop-like functionality built in. Right now, it seems like a great device for reading eBooks, watching films/TV shows, surfing the Web, etc. But it sits in a grey area between smartphones and laptops, and won’t satisfy everyone across the spectrum, especially power users and professional road warriors.

Q: Is the Delicious Library look-a-like, iBooks, a threat to Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook? Especially, since they support epub files right out of the box? What could Amazon and B&N do to keep iPad from taking away their market share? Could iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle App coexist well on the iPad?

A: Yes – it’s a massive threat. Why buy a single device to perform one function (displaying books in grayscale) when you can opt for one that performs multiple functions, while also offering a more intuitive, aesthetically pleasing and multimedia-enhanced alternative for browsing, buying and consuming digital literature? To maximize chances of survival, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are liable to leverage their relationships with authors and publishing houses to sew up exclusive content and distribution deals, or custom versions of digital books that offer features you won’t find in other electronic editions. As such, it’s possible iBooks and the Kindle App could coexist on the iPad, essentially serving as two virtual bookstores with markedly different selections. I also think that there’s a wealth of untapped talent out there in the form of independent authors, who – like the millions of indie coders who were empowered by Apple’s App Store – may soon become a force to be reckoned with, and be split in their allegiance between sales providers. Things may seem somewhat one-sided at the moment, but I suspect the battle lines haven’t even yet been drawn, or is that scribbled?

Q: Could Kindle’s dev kit, “active content”, be a game changer for ebook readers and what could that mean for the iPad?

A: Possibly, but only if the development community finds new and novel ways to extend the out of the box feature set of these devices. Simply adding puzzle games, interactive books and other novelties alone won’t do much to expand the value or possibilities offered by the relatively limited hardware these devices pack in.

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