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iPad coming to campus -- but will it be welcome?

When Apple releases its new iPad in April, Biola’s computer store will be among the retailers selling it.

Students have already been asking about the one-half inch thick, one-and-a-half -pound device, said senior Nick Patapoff, who works at the computer store. The iPad, which will include applications for games, photos, music and books, is part of the growing popularity of e-book readers. The iReader application, made just for the iPad, will allow users to buy books to view on their iPad. The release of such an application will raise the stakes of competing e-book distributors, likely causing a change in prices. But what does that mean for college students?

“It will almost certainly help break open the availability and popular acceptance of e-books for college textbooks,” said Gary Wytcherley, senior director of IT.

In past years, the hardware available did not meet the standards necessary to make e-book readers a reality, but Wytcherley said recent innovations like the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader have begun to meet those standards.

“The iPad is going to create the popular acceptance and really push things open,” he said.

The iPad has had its share of critiques, however. Many reporters, bloggers and technology experts have claimed the iPad merely enlarges what the majority of Apple fans already have: the iPhone. With no video recording capabilities, an incompatibility with Adobe Flash Player and access to applications already available for the iPhone, the iPad revealed last month has fallen short of many people’s expectations.

The conversation has found its way to Biola, as well. Junior Trevor Harwell, president of Biola’s computer club, Networx, said that while owning an iPad might make a person popular, he thinks college students are better off buying cheaper alternatives, such as Window’s Netbook.

The iPad will start at $499, and range up to more than $800, depending on what size memory the consumer wishes to buy, as well as whether the consumer wants local Wi-Fi versus a 3G internet network with AT&T. All versions will offer multi-touch capabilities, IPS technology that allows for viewing of content from most angles without glare, a custom silicon design, and a battery that lasts up to 10 hours.

Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware at Apple, said in a promotional video that the iPad is the most advanced piece of technology he has worked on.

Harwell disagrees. While he looks forward to future developments of the iPad, he said the current product is limited.

“The processor/graphics chip is advanced,” he said. “If Apple put so much time and effort into giving the user such high quality hardware, then why did they decide to dumb down the software so much?”

During his demonstration of the new product, Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, admitted the iPad would have to excel in certain key things in order to succeed. To do this, he said, the product will act as a hybrid of an iPhone and an Apple laptop.

Harwell said he didn’t recognize any signs of a Hybrid in the product and pointed to the iPad’s resemblance to the iPhone, as well as its inability to multi-task.

Patapoff is skeptical of the skeptics, however. Like Harwell, he recognized the potential of the iPad.

“At first, there will be the initial few who buy the product,” he said. “People said the iPod would fail. They don’t say those things any more.”

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