Can the touchscreen tablet match the success of the iPod and iPhone?
Apple had finally unveiled its long-rumoured and much-hyped tablet device, which it has dubbed the iPad.
The touchscreen device, which resembles a giant iPhone, is designed for web browsing, playing games and reading e-books.
The half-an-inch thick device has a 9.7 inch screen, weighs 1.5 pounds, and comes in two versions; one with 802.11n wi-fi and one with wi-fi and 3G. The 3G versions support speeds up to 7.2 Mbps on HSDPA networks.
To see the iPad in action, see our photo story from the launch event here.
The iPad will be available in the US in late March at $499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB model and $699 for the 64GB model. The wi-fi plus 3G model will be available to US customers in April, costing another $130 on top for each model.
The tablet is powered by Apple's A4 chip which the company said will give it a battery life of up to 10 hours. Accessories include a keyboard dock and a protective case.
Apple's CEO Steve Jobs claimed the iPad creates an entirely new category of devices that "will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before".
Apple has unveiled the much-hyped iPad
(Photo credit: James Martin/CNET)
While touchscreen tablet devices have been available for a number of years (see this photo story from 2005 showing tablets being used by artists in London's Leicester Square), they remain mostly limited to niche applications such as healthcare, although e-book readers such as Amazon's Kindle have been gaining in popularity recently.
Apple enthusiasts are hoping that the company can bring the same level of smooth user experience to tablet PCs that it has to MP3 players with its iPod and smartphones with its iPhone.
But analysts have already warned that getting the applications and content ecosystem right is just as important as attractive hardware.
Apple said the iPad comes with 12 apps designed especially for it, and the tablet will run almost all of the more than 140,000 apps in Apple's App Store. Apple also unveiled its iBooks app for iPad, which includes Apple's new iBookstore, which will allow users to buy and download books from major publishers.
It is also offering a version of iWork, a productivity suite which allows users to create documents, presentations and spreadsheets, for the iPad. The three apps will be available separately through the App Store for $9.99 each.
Apple has also released a software development kit for the iPad to encourage developers to build their own apps for the device.
"There's going to be a whole new gold rush for app developers," Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software at Apple predicted.