Apple CEO Steve Jobs capped months of rampant speculation by introducing the Apple iPad tablet computer Jan. 27.
The device is only one-half inch thick, weighs only 1.5 pounds and features a 9.7-inch IPS display, according to Engadget, which is live-blogging the event and has provided several excellent pictures of Jobs, the iPad and demos here.
The iPad's battery life is 10 hours, and the device is available with flash storage capacity of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. The device supports Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. There is also an accelerometer, compass, speaker, microphone and 30-pin connector.
Powered by Apple's 1GHz A4 chip, the iPad boasts full capacitive multitouch, essentially bringing the fine user experience of Apple's smash-hit iPhone to a larger device.
"It's the best Web experience you've ever had," Jobs told the audience at the Yerba Buena Gardens event center in San Francisco.
Jobs showed crisp high-definition movies and music videos, YouTube clips, smooth Web browsing with Google Maps and Google Street View, and efficient e-mail and calendar access.
Apple is launching 12 new applications designed especially for the iPad that work in portrait and landscape views, automatically alternating between views as the user rotates the iPad.
Specifically, Jobs introduced a version of iWork for iPad, a productivity suite designed to be accessed via multitouch. Apple's Pages document application, Keynote presentation application and Numbers spreadsheet application will be sold separately through the App Store for $9.99 each.
Access to iTunes is built right into the device software; the iPad syncs with iTunes via a standard Apple 30-pin cable.
Jobs indicated that reading e-books would be a joy to do on the iPad. The iBooks for iPad application includes Apple's new iBookstore. This could be the alleged Kindle killer, boasting books from major and independent publishers.
Most of the 140,000 iPhone applications in Apple's App Store will run on the iPad and users will be able to download most of their iPhone applications to the iPad when they purchase it. Apple's App Store comes on every iPad and Apple released an iPad SDK (software development kit) Jan. 27.
While analysts have believed the iPad would cost $600 to $1,000, Apple said the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model starts at $499. Users can pay $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi only model or $699 for a 64GB Wi-Fi model. These will ship in March from the Apple Store and retailers.
Consumers who opt to buy an iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G, handling up to 7.2M bps on HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) networks, will pay $629 for a 16GB model, $729 for 32GB and $829 for 64GB. These will be available in April with prepaid data plans from AT&T.
The iPad is already drawing rave reviews from those who have a stake in the iPhone application ecosystem.
Quinton Alsbury, president and co-founder of Mellmo, maker of the Roambi iPhone application publishing tool for business, told eWEEK in an e-mail:
""It's half phone, half laptop and all game changer-and I'm not just talking about changing the way we read books and watch movies on the go.""
Alsbury said he believes the device will alter how mobile workers do business. He noted that Roambi was designed to be interactive on a touch-screen device, taking advantage of Apple's graphics utilities. He said his team will optimize Roambi to take advantage of the greater screen real estate the iPad has to offer.