Cue the iPad countdown


I got an e-mail Sunday from an Italian journalist who wanted me to stand in line for him Saturday to pick up his iPad. He wanted me to pay for it, too, promising reimbursement when he arrives in Las Vegas for next month’s National Association of Broadcasters show. He said he'd reserved his iPad, but Apple requires payment with a U.S.-issued credit card, which he doesn't have, as he is based in London.

I politely declined. I said that since I don't plan to wait in line for an iPad of my own, I wouldn't be lining up for anyone else, either. I might have considered waiting if this fellow had offered to buy me an iPad, too. But he didn’t.
 
I see this got-to-have-it desperation as another example of reputation and branding selling Apple’s device, as only a very few people have seen, handled or operated an iPad. There's one commercial running for the device already, and I expect to see more as the Saturday release approaches. I don't think there will be many units sitting on Apple Store shelves, as estimates of iPad sales for 2010 are ranging from 4 million to 10 million.

There are still many lingering questions about the iPad, such as when it will add a camera. (I think Steve Jobs and company are saving that feature for the next version). A camera would certainly make the device more appealing to me and my Skype account. If the camera could shoot high-quality stills and high-definition video it would be a perfect companion for voice-over-Internet-protocol telephony and e-mailing snaps of the latest goings on. The camera would be even more valuable if it could swivel to point in, or out, which would transform the 7.9-inch screen into a huge camera viewfinder. (I remember when my Nikon F3 boasted a bigger viewfinder. I think it was 1 inch across.)

I wrote about the pending iPad release in my Sunday column (http://bit.ly/aGvRce). One reader asked whether the Wi-Fi version of the device can be upgraded to a 3G version later. Everything I've read suggests it can't, although the 3G units, which are scheduled for release at the end of April, will be Wi-Fi enabled.

As the iPad approaches, uncertainty is the only certainty; nobody knows how customers will use this device. It’ll be fun to watch people strap on their iPad training wheels and accelerate to warp speed, whatever direction they take.