The Apple iPad: Three Unanswered Questions

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Barnes & Noble is building an e-reader app for the iPad, a project it probably wouldn’t undertake without positive signals from Apple, so maybe Apple doesn’t see the other online booksellers as a serious threat to iBooks.)

[Update 3/22/10: News reports are emerging that Amazon is building a version of its Kindle reader for the iPad. Engadget has some cool screen shots.]

3. How much will iPad-only apps cost? Will developers price apps developed especially for the iPad more like iPhone apps, which average around $1 or $2, or more like desktop apps? Apple may be setting an important precedent here by charging $9.99 each for the iPad versions of its iWork productivity programs. One of the nice things about the generally low prices on iPhone apps is that you don’t sweat buying them on impulse, just to try them out. If iPad apps are significantly more expensive than their iPhone counterparts, there will probably be less of that. On the other hand, a slightly higher price regime could help to weed out a lot of the junk apps.

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As I said at the beginning, the real question isn’t whether I’m going to buy an iPad, it’s whether I’m going to pre-order one, and which model I’ll go for.

In the worst-case scenario, the iPad will still be good for browsing the Web, watching videos purchased from the iTunes Store, looking at digital photos, and reading e-books and magazines, which is worth $499 to me. In the best-case scenario—one where Apple treats the device as an open platform, and doesn’t try to dampen competition through artificial controls—the iPad could prove considerably more valuable, meaning I wouldn’t mind spending $829 on a top-of-the-line model (then saving up for the inevitable iPad Pro in 2011).

Unfortunately, it may not become clear which scenario we’re going to get until several months after the iPad hits stores, just as the real value of the iPhone didn’t become clear until Apple launched the iTunes App Store in the summer of 2008, a full year after releasing the phone itself. We’ll have to see whether my inner gadget freak can wait that long.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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