Today in Apple history: First iPad reviews hail a true game-changer

March 31, 2010: The world gets its first sense of how the iPad measures up, as the first reviews hit the internet.

The consensus? That there’s no Flash, no USB, no multitasking — but that it’s a whole new computing experience all the same. As USA Today writes, “The first iPad is a winner.”

The iPad was Steve Jobs’ final major new product category at Apple. He previously shepherded the launch of hits like the iPod, iTunes Music Store and iPhone during his second tenure with the company.

Getting to grips with the iPad

Jobs unveiled the iPad on January 27, 2010. But with the exception of a few rare (and carefully selected) public appearances, the world did not get much information about how well the tablet performed until the first reviews began to trickle out.

As remains the case today, Apple carefully controlled which outlets got an early iPad. Big names like Walt Mossberg for All Things D and David Pogue for The New York Times got demo units. So did newspapers like USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times.

The verdict from these precious few early reviewers proved as positive as most potential owners hoped. Pogue said anybody intrigued by the tablet form factor would “love the machine.” The tablet’s ability to play movies continuously for more than 12 hours particularly impressed him.

Mossberg called the iPad “a whole new type of computer.” He referred to it as a “pleasure to use” — and said it made him less interested in using his laptop.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Andy Inhatko got it right when he wrote that the iPad fills “a gap that’s existed for quite some time” — pitched halfway between an iPhone and a MacBook.

First iPad reviews: Better for content consumption than creation

Interestingly, the first iPad reviews acknowledge a challenge that Apple continues to face with subsequent tablets. The critics noted that the device does not replace a laptop — and works better for consuming content than creating it.

Pogue wrote that a laptop will do more for less money.

Mossberg confessed that — as much as he loved the iPad — he still turned to his laptop for writing and editing larger documents.

Edward Baig from  USA Today wrote that Apple “pretty much nailed it with this first iPad, though there’s certainly room for improvement.”

The first-gen iPad went on sale on April 3, with a 3G version following on April 30. The tablet became a big hit for Apple at launch. It took less than a month for Apple to sell 1 million units. (That’s half the time it took to sell that many iPhones.)

In its first year, the iPad sold around 25 million units. That made it the most successful new product category launch in Apple history.

Did you own a first-gen iPad? Leave your comments below.