SAN FRANCISCO - Steve Jobs has announced iPad - a tablet PC that has built massive hype over the past few months.
Availability in New Zealand is not yet known, but Jobs says he hopes to have international deals in place by June.
At a launch in San Francisco, he promised: "We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical product today."
He then revealed what looks like a giant, touchscreen iPhone.
Jobs said the iPad will be ideal for watching video, reading newspapers, browsing photos. "It's so much more intimate than a laptop."
The large touchscreen is used an input device, with Jobs describing it as "a dream to type on".
The device ranges in price from US$499 (NZ$708) to $829 (NZ$1175).
The 9.7-inch screen is surrounded by a wide bezel. It will be powered by a 1GHz Apple A4 chip, and will sport between 16GB and 64GB of solid state flash memory. It weighs 680 grams.
Like the iPhone, it has a built-in accelerometer, and has a compass like the iPhone 3GS model.
Connectivity includes Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11n WiFi.
iPads will be available with 3G connectivity and will run on the AT&T network in the US.
Jobs said that iPad 3G versions will be unlocked, and will run on GSM micro SIMS.
He claimed battery life of 10 hours in use or one month on standby.
The device handles music in a similar way to iPhone and iPod touch, but bears similarities to the full version of iTunes.
The cheapest version is a 16GB WiFi iPad at US$499 (NZ$708) and the most expensive - a 64GB WiFi/3G version will cost US829.
Apple will start shipping Wi-Fi versions in 60 days, with 3G versions available a month after that.
The company showed several accessories, including a protective carrying case and a standard mechanical keyboard.
iTunes, apps and movies
iPad allows users to flick through photos and emails on the iPhone, and includes a full-sized calendar application.
YouTube can be watched in standard or high definition, although reports say the aspect ratio appears closer to 4:3 than 16:9.
When demonstrating the machine, Jobs started by showing Apple's Safari browser at work, visiting the New York Times website, navigating in much the same way as with a full-scaled browser.
One story wouldn't load correctly, showing a missing plug-in icon - causing some commentators to speculate that Adobe's Flash won't run on the iPad, just as it won't on the iPhone.
The iPad has shown Jobs' current location, indicating built-in GPS.
Movies were then demonstrated including Star Trek and Up, shown in widescreen mode with thick black bars above and below, showing up the lack of widescreen.
Scott Forstall, the SVP of iPhone Software, said the iPad can run content from the AppStore - either in an iPhone-sized box on the screen. This can be magnified, into a pixel-doubled low-res mode.
iPad would run "virtually every one of these apps, unmodified, right out of the box," he said.
iPhone users who have bought software from AppStore will be able to sync those applications directly to iPad rather than having to re-purchase them.
Games demonstrated at the event showed clever use of multi-touch gestures - like 'pinching' fingers together to manipulate on screen action.
Apple exec Phil Schiller showed a demonstration of a version of the company's own productivity suite, iWork, scaled to work on the device.
It includes a multi-touch controlled version of Keynote - Apple's take on presentation software like PowerPoint - just for the iPad.
He also revealed Pages, the word processor which he reportedly described as "the most beautiful word processor you've ever used."
The three applications within the iWork suite will be sold individually, for US$9.99 each.
Third device category
Jobs kicked off his keynote at the launch event by talking about Apple's key businesses - iPod, iPhone and Mac.
"Is there room for a third category of device?" Jobs asked the crowd before revealing the iPad.
"In order to create a third category of devices, these devices will have to be far better at doing some key tasks."
Jobs kicked off the launch event in San Francisco, promising: "We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical product today."
Jobs - who reportedly looks in better health after major medical issues over the past two years - has already announced that the company sold its 250 millionth iPod, and that the company now has 284 retail stores worldwide.
He again talked up the AppStore - the online retail space where iPhone and iPod Touch applications are sold - saying there are over 140,000 applications in the App Store. Three billion applications have now been downloaded from the store.
There are reports that some Apple news sites are starting to buckle under the traffic load of Mac faithful trying to find out about the much-lauded device.
Rumours of an Apple foray into the e-reader market have proven to be very accurate.
Steve Jobs returned to the stage to introduce iBook, an application that looks like users are actually looking down on a real book.
There is an iBook store with Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette titles available for purchase.
Apple will use the ePub format, which is more open that used by devices like Amazon's locked-down Kindle reader.
'Cool" was the general instant Twitter reaction to Apple's new iPad, announced by CEO Steve Jobs this morning.
Twitter was all abuzz with excitement leading up to the announcement and some users were facing four or so minutes of delay in their tweets being sent.
On Twitter, Apple fans quickly made their mind about buying one. ""I'll buy anything shiny that's made by Apple," said one fan even before the price point had been revealed.
Not every one was sold on the name. "I think Apple could have come up with a better name than iPad. A tablet computer is not the first thing I think of when I hear that name."
Another critic said: "You would think that at a place like apple they would have an entire team of people thinking about the name." A female tweeter exclaimed:"Did Apple not test the name iPad on ANY women?"
Some felt let down, saying it was only a bigger version of the iPhone.
"Apple announces something they already sell, but with a bigger screen."
There was some criticism the event was over-huped. Said one cynic: "Apple makes great stuff. But really. iDON'T care."
- NZ HERALD STAFF