Aussie telcos: “iPad? Meh…” - Updated

Telstra, Virgin, VHA, don't exactly go wild over the “magical and revolutionary” new device

The iPad has a built-in accelerometer.

The iPad has a built-in accelerometer.

When it comes to showing the love for Apple gadgets, Australian telcos are usually some of the first in line, but the reaction hasn’t exactly been ecstatic for the company’s new wundergadget, the iPad.

Neither Virgin, VHA nor Telstra have begun formal conversations with Apple as to when the product will be available in the country and at what price.

A spokesperson for Virgin Mobile indicated that it didn’t see the iPad as a particularly large opportunity for the company.

“We stock mobile phones at the moment, rather than laptop or tablet type devices,” the spokesperson said. “Therefore there are no immediate plans to stock the iPad.”

A Telstra spokesperson was slightly more enthused by the announcement.

"Now that the iPad has been publicly announced by Apple, Telstra welcomes the opportunity to talk with Apple about bringing iPad to our Next G network," the spokesperson said.

A Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) spokesperson said the company was “very interested” in the devices and added that the “exciting and innovative Apple iPad” would be a welcome addition to its product range.

“Vodafone Hutchison Australia will soon commence discussions with Apple regarding the availability of the Apple iPad in Australia,” the spokesperson said.

IDC telecommunications analyst, Mark Novosel, said the mixed response from telcos could be put down to first generation phobia.

“The iPad is a first generation device, and as such leaves the door open to many improvements,” he said. “Rather than being a scaled-down Mac, the iPad is a large iPod Touch with extra features added in. Unless you are prepared to carry a bag or hold the iPad in your hand, it will not travel with most people in the same way that an iPod or iPhone does.”

“The US pricing reflects a $US130 premium for 3G which I believe should have been a standard feature across the device line-up. Its hard to see there being a strong demand for the 3G version with current pricing, not to mention that when devices arrive in Australia, prices always get inflated from the US equivalent exchange rate.”

Novosel said that, for the time being, iPads will likely be used in the home as a portable “coffee table computer” — something that is always on and easy to grab when you see a website on TV, want to check mail or update Facebook, with connectivity coming from WiFi within the home.

Another reason for the lukewarm response, Novosel said, is that the 3G-enabled models will be priced in the NetBook price range but lack all the functionality of a NetBook, such as being able to run native desktop applications, provide wide-ranging on-board connectivity options for peripherals and high definitition TV.

“The Devices such as Amazon's Kindle should be more fearful of the iPad, especially with Apple's iBookstore coming. E-books will more likely be where the iPad competes, rather than against NetBooks,” he said.

“At current prices, I would expect telcos to tread carefully if aiming to subsidise the 3G-enabled iPads, since the same functionality and next level up in terms of storage space can be bought for less at the expense of sacrificing 3G, which will mean the 3G-enabled iPads will have a hard time competing.

Optus did not respond to Computerworld request for comment by deadline.

Update

Virgin Mobile has told Computerworld that it is in fact very enthusiastic about the iPad and views it as potentially a great opportunity.

"While Virgin Mobile has no immediate plans to sell the Apple iPad, our customers love the Apple iPhone, and we’d certainly welcome conversations with Apple about potentially stocking the iPad,” the spokesperson said.

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