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The wait is over. The rumor mill is shut down. Steve Jobs has announced Apple’s entry in the “slate” computer market, and it’s called the iPad. For the foreseeable future feminine hygiene references will rule the Internet.

Actually what Jobs showed the audience in San Francisco was about 70% of the iPad. There’s no camera – not even a webcam, and no USB port so you can plug one in. There’s no flash memory slot. It runs the same OS as the iPhone, but it isn’t a phone. It can’t multi-task, so it’s limited to a single application at a time. And even at a reported ten hours its battery life is miniscule compared to dedicated e-readers like the Kindle or the Nook.

This is a generation 1.0 product, obviously, and it probably won’t be a very worthwhile product until generation 2.0.

It has an iPod-style connector port, so we can expect the same aftermarket stuff that’s out there for the iPod. Someone will release a “base station” with speakers and a keyboard port. Someone will release a DC charger adapter. Someone will release a cable that lets you hook two iPads together to move data between them. And you will pay for all that, because Apple didn’t include a simple thing like a USB port.

So the iPad falls short of expectations. It’s not a tablet computer killer, nor is it an e-reader killer. It’s a third kind of in-between thing, that will initially be used by gotta-have-it tech geeks and white-collar types who need the latest toys for their prestige value. Like the original iPhone.

Most surprising is the lack of built-in 3G wireless support for all models. You pay extra for that, too. And we have to wonder if that will be a pay-once deal as with most e-readers, or another monthly bill (in addition to your cell phone bill, your Internet connection bill, your cable tv bill, and the bill you probably pay the bank to pay all these bills for you).

And on the e-reader front, we don’t yet know what file formats the iPad might support: PDF? EPub? Mobi? DOC? RTF? Who can say? So far we haven’t seen these kinds of details. We know it can display the New York Times quite nicely, and streaming video looks very good.

It’s a good start on a useful product. But I think I’ll wait until version 2 comes out – or maybe version 3. And if I can’t port my Amazon Kindle AZW files over to it, I might just pass altogether.

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