Apple’s big media event yesterday produced what everyone had been
expecting: a tablet device, which as we know now, has been named the
iPad.

Apple is promoting the iPad as a “magical and revolutionary device” but
there was palpable disappointment amongst many who had been discussing
(and speculating) about the device for so long. Living up to the hype
was probably impossible, but is some of the disappointment justified?
Is the iPad as “revolutionary” as Apple would have us believe?

When looking at the iPad’s features and functionality, it’s hard to see much that’s revolutionary. Less tablet ‘computer‘ and more something between an iPhone and netbook, many have likened the iPad to a larger version of the iPhone or iPod Touch. One blogger humorously likened it to “a large iPhone with a chunky bezel“, while another more seriously called ita fancier, larger iPod touch“. Indeed, the iPad has many of the same physical characteristics as these devices, and Apple has engineered the iPad to work with the existing apps developers have been building for the iPhone.

As an e-book reader, the iPad just might give anyone thinking of buying a Kindle or Nook reason to reconsider, but even Steve Jobs made a comment that screams evolution more than revolution:

Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle. We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further.

Even on the business side of things, it’s hard to see anything revolutionary. With iTunes, Apple was a leader in bringing cheap music downloads from major record labels to the mainstream. But it’s just one of a growing number of players in the e-book space and there were no visible game-changing content announcements yesterday. And as my colleague Meghan Keane noted, some books Apple is now selling through iBooks are more expensive than they are on Amazon.

From my perspective, on all fronts, calling the iPad a “revolutionary device” is just Apple’s marketing spin. The iPad is very much evolutionary. Apple has clearly taken what it thinks is the best of a number of existing device categories and is simply trying to create a new market.

At the end of the day, of course, evolutionary technologies can be just as successful as revolutionary ones (if not more successful), and a discussion of whether the iPad is evolutionary or revolutionary will obviously matter a whole lot less to consumers than it will to hardcore techies. If consumers can find a place for an iPad in their lives, nobody will care whether the iPad is an amazing new innovation or whether it’s another step on the evolutionary ladder for several existing technologies.

On this note, it’s worth mentioning the most surprising aspect of Apple’s announcement: pricing. With a model starting at just $499, the iPad is a lot cheaper than many analysts anticipated. So while many, myself included, are struggling to find a lot to be excited about are trying to figure out where the iPad fits in, the iPad’s pricing, not its technology, could very well be Apple’s key to success.

Photo credit: ftchris via Flickr.