Yes, it's a dud. Why? Simple reason: People are debating whether it is or not.
There were no debates over the iMac. There were no debates over the iPod. There were no debates over the iPhone. These things were instant hits, the stuff with the Steve Jobs WOW! factor. You just wanted one. People were willing to pay hundreds -- perhaps over a thousand -- dollars to switch cell carriers and go to AT&T just to get one.
This time people wonder.
At CNET, for example, senior writer Ina Fried and associate editor Josh Lowensohn are "Debating the Merits of Apple's iPad." The intro notes that while some see it as the "tablet of the future," others see it as "just a big iPhone that can't make phone calls."
Which begs the question of whether Jobs is losing his magic. Yes, the unmentioned elephant in the convention hall is the fact that he has had health problems. That may have nothing to do with it, even if Jobs is losing his magic. But we have no real info so all we can do is speculate.
Certainly, there is the expectation factor. Like the fact that All Sarah Palin had to do in a debate to beat expectations was to keep from falling over the podium or asking who Barack Obama was, while Obama had to deliver orations of Solomon to keep from disappointing, Jobs needed to be magic to impress anyone.
But that's how he has succeeded in the past. Really fantastic stuff that demonstrates how stupid every other designer in technology is, high prices, high margins, and gotta-have products.
This one is just another nice product. The fact that it starts at just $500 (which shocked everyone) indicates that Jobs either:
1. knew it didn't come out so great so he had to price it low and take an early loss, or
2. just couldn't come up with anything fantastic so he decided to build something that could compete on price this time, and crammed in what he could fit for the price.
Either of those is a big change in strategy. Or a failure to live up to the usual strategy.
And that is serious. Can Apple compete under those terms, with that strategy? The company doesn't know how to get into a price war and win. It has no experience playing leap-frog on features with competitors to maintain a market share. Insanely great products and insane prices, that's the history of Steve.
Perhaps we're just coming to an era where it's not possible for one brilliant guy to out-wow competitors by unveiling next decade's product while everyone else is still trying to improve last year's.
That would be sad. whatever else we may think of Steve, we need his vision to keep leading the way, to keep new ideas flowing.
Come on, Steve, try again. Surprise us with some secret weapon that you've been holding out on for the first generation of iPad. Wow us. We need it.