After all the brouhaha, the dust is finally settling on this past weekend's headline-hogging iPad launch. Wall Street is now eager to see whether the iPad will join the iPhone in the pantheon of lasting, hot gadgets.
The iPad, however, is a different animal than the iconic smartphone. Whereas cellphones were de rigeur when the iPhone made its debut in 2007, the iPad is a move into uncharted waters. Previous tablets from the likes of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) have hardly set the world on fire, although Apple is confident of creating a new technology fiefdom somewhere between iPhones and Macs.
Ultimately, the iPad's success will depend on the tech bellwether's ability to lure software makers and partners onto its new toy."Once normalcy returns, it will be up to software developers and content creators to turn the iPad into a cultural phenomenon, much like the iPhone that preceded it," wrote Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Company, in a note released on Monday. "On this score, the early returns are already encouraging." More than a million applications have been downloaded to iPads from Apple's App Store, and developers are already scrambling to build applications for the new tablet. The iPad works with most of the 150,000 existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications, although a new breed of software is starting to emerge. There are over a thousand iPad-specific apps already available in the App Store. These include a downloadable Wall Street Journal, E*TRADE Mobile Pro, and a Marvel Comics application. Still, there are big gaps in the iPad story, most notably its lack of support for Adobe's (ADBE) popular Flash video technology. "[This] will have a limiting effect on the iPad's sales potential," warned Francis Sideco, principal analyst at iSuppli, in a recent note. "Absent Flash, iPad users will not be able to enjoy Flash-driven content, which is used in a considerable amount of Web sites, as well as Web-based games and videos." The analyst firm explains that with a lot of Flash content available for free, Apple is not so-subtly pushing users towards paid content. The company is likely to stick with this non-Flash strategy until iPad sales are impacted, according to iSuppli.
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