iPad_smThere has certainly been a lot of digital ink spilled over the last little while trying to determine whether the Apple Tablet would be the second coming or just another device with superfluous hype. Now that the iPad has been unveiled I sense a bit of a letdown – with some justification – from the tech community.

Given the amount of press and speculation feature expectations were bound to overshoot what even arguably the leading consumer device manufacturer could deliver. But in the afterglow of today’s launch I am starting to wonder if we need to look beyond the actual device and features as some have mentioned.

With any new category it firstly is difficult to envisage what the eventual maturation of devices will look like. When automobiles were first starting to be delivered to mass markets, they took a lot of design cues from horse drawn carriages. It took quite a few years for cars as a new distinct category to emerge and people to accept that the two categories were different. What’s also exciting is the potential that cars would promise and deliver in terms of mobility and even urban design and travel.

Now I am not suggesting that Jobs and company have delivered something so life changing as the automobile, but we might want to separate out a few things from the hype to see if indeed there is promise that would justify even Apple’s internal hoopla. If we move past the shiny device itself to the ecosystem then to behaviour, are there any indications that this device would impact developers / users to create new ways to use / interact with the device? Could it then be a new way of interacting with content that is significantly better than what we have now?

I am only asking the question because the iPhone (which isn’t really just a phone, but a most personal computer) and its data plans changed how people interact on the go. Heck, it even changed how I interact in the home! It broke the carrier model of aggregating applications behind a pay-wall and brought more of an ecosystem approach to app creation and consumption. Are there any aspects in the iPad which may break existing content models?

Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: no one ever got rich underestimating Apple’s ability to create interesting new markets. [Updated- Yes it has been significant !]