Apple launches iPad tablet device

Apple has finally announced its long-rumoured computing tablet. The Apple iPad, launching internationally in late March, is a 9.7" 1024x768 touchscreen 1GHz computer with a GPS, Bluetooth and 802.11n wi-fi and optionally 3G - essentially a scaled-up iPod Touch or iPhone.

The wi-fi provision supports 802.11n, while the 3G version supports speeds up to 7.2 Mbps on HSDPA networks. iPad is 0.5 inches thick and weighs 1.5 pounds, making it thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook currently available.

iPad is powered by A4, Apple’s next-generation system-on-a-chip. Designed by Apple, the new A4 chip is said of offer long battery life of up to 10 hours in normal use.

Apple further announced that the iPad would cost from $499, with 16GB, 32 GB and 64GB options, and 3G data as an extra. Apple also confirmed a 10 hour in-use battery life, no built-in camera and still no Flash support.

“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, at the launch in San Francisco. “iPad creates and defines 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.”

Jobs confirmed that the tablet will play all Touch/iPhone apps on its bigger screen in either a window or full-screen and either portrait or landscape. The iPad will also play 720p High Definition video. A new SDK for the iPad means that when it launches it will also play iPad-specific applications.

Jobs demonstrated iTunes, iBooks (for e-book content downloaded from Apple’s new iBookstore, available at launch) and a new version of iWorks specifically created for the iPad, one of 12 such new iPad applications. The three iWork apps (Pages, a word processing app; Numbers, a spreadsheet app; and Keynote, a presentation app) will be available separately for $9.99 in the App Store.

The iPad will feature a near full-size soft keyboard, but for a better physical typing experience an iPad Keyboard Dock with full-size traditional keyboard will be available optionally.

iPad syncs with iTunes like the iPhone and iPod Touch, using the standard Apple 30-pin to USB cable, so users can sync their contacts, photos, music, movies, TV shows and apps from a Mac or PC.

The consensus from analysts and commentators on the Apple iPad's launch is that it is a serious rival to Microsoft's tablet ambitions, as well as to e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle or Sony’s Reader.

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