Apple has finally unveiled the iPad, its much-anticipated tablet computer.
On Wednesday, Apple chief Steve Jobs went on stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to introduce the device, which handles e-books and email, as well as images, music, video, games and web browsing.
In his presentation, Jobs described the iPad as "so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone". He also derided the netbook phenomenon, saying the cheap mini-laptops "aren't better than anything".
Closely resembling a larger iPhone, the device is fully compatible with existing iPhone applications and is based on Apple's own custom ARM-based processor, the A4, which runs at 1GHz.
The iPad has a high-definition, 9.7-inch in-plane switching (IPS) LCD touchscreen, which allows for a 178-degree viewing angle — wider than rival screen types — and has 1024x768 pixels resolution. It also supports multitouch input, and optional extras include a keyboard dock.
Two types of iPad will be available: one with 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, and one with just Wi-Fi, Jobs said.
The Wi-Fi-only model will ship globally in two months' time. In the US, its price will range from $499 (£309) to $699, depending on the storage capacity, which ranges from 16GB to 64GB.
Versions with added 3G will cost an extra $130 and will ship in 90 days' time, Jobs said.
"We want to put this in the hands of lots of people," Jobs said, referring to the pricing for the device.
For the launch, Apple has made a number of partnership deals for content applications. It has drafted in media firms such as The New York Times Company, which have created newspaper and magazine apps that can run in-page videos on their virtual pages for the iPad.
The device is also an e-reader, through a new application called iBooks. A new iBookstore lets users download e-books to their iPad, in much the same way as Amazon customers can do with the Kindle. Publishing houses that have signed up to provide content include Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Macmillan.
In addition, Apple has introduced a version of its iWork productivity suite tailored to the iPad. Users can create presentations, spreadsheets and documents using a redesigned, gesture-based user interface.
It can be used for personal information management, virtual painting and mapping services.
Existing iPhone applications can run on the iPad, either in a small box at the original resolution, or scaled up to use the full screen. A new version of the iPhone software development kit (SDK) has been released that is compatible with the iPad, so that developers can write apps for it.
The device, which has a virtual keyboard, weighs about 700g, is about 13mm thick. Jobs claimed a 10-hour battery life for the iPad. Other features include Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a compass, an accelerometer and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Like the iPhone, the iPad does not support Flash. It does play high-definition movies and YouTube videos, and it automatically orientates the screen to landscape or portrait mode, according to the direction in which is being held.
UK pricing for the iPad's 3G data plans has not yet been confirmed. However, Jobs said that US carrier AT&T will offer two levels of data plan: 250MB a month for $14.99, or unlimited for $29.99 per month. He added that the iPad will not be locked to a particular carrier.
Both AT&T deals include free use of the operator's Wi-fi hotspots. Jobs said that deals through international carriers would be announced by June.