Apple today unveiled its iPad, after years of rumors that the company was building a tablet-like device. Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the device today during a special media-only event, saying it is "way better than a laptop, way better than a phone. It's the best web experience you've ever had."
Jobs began the introduction by discussing what kind of device might fit between a smartphone and a laptop. "We've wondered for years as well—in order to create that category, they have to be far better at doing some key tasks... better than the laptop, better than the smartphone," Jobs said. "Now, some people thought that was a netbook—the problem is that netbooks aren't better than anything!"
Then Jobs brought out the iPad, which looks much like an oversized iPhone. It features an interface that is essentially a hybrid between Mac OS X and iPhone OS. In addition to browsing the Web, included applications also give users access to iTunes media, including HD video content, calendars, photos, contacts, and more. The built-in e-mail client also looks like a hybrid between Mail on the Mac and Mail on the iPhone. Text entry is done with a large, on-screen QWERTY keyboard, which seemed very responsive during Jobs' demo.
The iPad hardware itself is built using a custom Apple-designed chip dubbed the "A4," running at 1GHz. It features a 9.7-inch, 1024x768 IPS LCD display with full multitouch input. It also packs in 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, an accelerometer, a compass, a speaker, a microphone, a 30-pin dock connector, and a 10-hour battery capable of a full month of standby time. All of that hardware is contained in a unibody aluminum case that is half an inch thick and weighs a scant 1.5 pounds.
The iPad will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, starting at $499. The 32GB version will sell for $599, and the 64GB model for $699. That's far less than the oft-rumored $1,000 price point. Models with integrated 3G networking will be available a month later for an additional $130. The 3G modem will be carrier-unlocked and use new "micro" SIM cards. In the US, AT&T will be the first official provider of data service for 3G-equipped models, with a $14.99 250MB plan and a $29.99 unlimited plan. Activation will take place directly from the device; all plans are prepay and can be canceled at any time. Plans for international users will be announced later this summer.
"When we set out to develop the iPad, we not only had very ambitious technical goals and user interface goals, but we had a very aggressive price goal," Jobs said. "We want to put this in the hands of a lot of people... At $499, a lot of people can afford an iPad."
Of course, the iPad wouldn't be of much use without apps that let you do the things you want to do. It will run standard iPhone apps, without modification, either centered in the middle or enlarged to fit the full screen. However, developers can access an updated SDK, complete with an iPad simulator, to begin developing apps specifically for the device. EA and Gameloft were on hand to demo games, and the New York Times showed off a virtual newspaper app. An iPad-ready version of Brushes, a painting program, was also demonstrated, showing off the device's precise touch sensing.
Apple also had some significant new apps of its own to show off. The first is iBooks, an e-reading application. The app, which looks suspiciously like the iPhone app Classics, lets readers flip through virtual books, complete with animated page flips. Books can be black and white or full color, and publishers can even include video and audio. Books will be available from an integrated iBook Store, which for now will be stocked with books and textbooks from from the top five publishers: Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Peguin, and Simon & Schuster.
SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller was also on hand to demonstrate a suite of iPad-optimized versions of iWork applications, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. These versions allow integration of on-device photos, can work with existing files made on your Mac, and can pull up context-sensitive on-screen keyboards. For instance, a special data entry keyboard pops up while filling in cells in Numbers. "These applications are incredible," Schiller said. "They really show the tremendous potential and power of the iPad." Each app will be available for $9.99 via the App Store.
Apple is offering a selection of accessories for the iPad. A standard dock keeps the device in portrait, or "picture frame mode," while charging or syncing. It also features an audio out jack for connecting powered speakers. There is also a dock with an integrated keyboard for long typing sessions; no word on whether or not the device with pair with an Apple wireless keyboard or not. The Camera Connection Kit offers two dock connector adapters—one to attach a digital camera directly via USB, and another to insert an SD card to directly access image files. (Hope against hope: this could be used for file transfer.) Finally, there is the iPad case, which doubles as either a vertical or horizontal stand in addition to protecting it from bumps and scratches.
Jobs finished the event saying that Apple has always tried to exist at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. The iPad represents what Jobs feels is the epitome of that ethos, calling it "a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price."
Source: ars technica