When the doors open at Apple stores this Saturday morning there is certain to be a crush of people eager for an iPad. Hype over the new tablet computer has been building since Steve Jobs unveiled it last January 27th.
Since then, Apple has kept the device largely under wraps, sharing it only in the past week or so with a very few tech reviewers and the cast of a TV sitcom. On Saturday, when real consumers start buying the iPad for $499 and up, we'll begin to see whether Apple has changed the world one more time.
Enthusiasts are focusing on what it can do. The iPad's nearly 10-inch screen can be used to watch movies and play games. It will run 150,000 apps, small programs already created for the iPhone. And it can be held comfortably for reading.
"I think this will basically be your new newspaper and your new stack of magazines," says CNET.com editor Molly Wood. IPad doubters are focusing on what it doesn't do.
"It doesn't have a camera," says Wood. "My cell phone has a camera. My laptop has a camera. And it doesn't have a real keyboard, as plenty of cell phones do."
Wood points at her phone. "And you know this actually has a physical keyboard, which a lot of people still want," she says. "And the iPad doesn't, so it's hard to imagine why you necessarily need to switch from [a cell phone] to [an iPad]."
Less than a decade ago the iPod was a similarly new device that took a while to catch on. In 2002, just 376,000 iPods were sold. Last year Apple sold more than 54 million of them. Apple is clearly hoping the iPad will do something similar. Undoubtedly for some, that day will arrive on Saturday.