Apple finally unveiled its hotly anticipated tablet today at a press conference in San Francisco hosted by CEO Steve Jobs. The iPad, which looks like a large iPhone, has a 9.7 inch LED-backlit display with a multi-touch screen. It weighs just 1.5 pounds and is one-half inch thick. The big surprise? It will cost $499 for 16 GB of memory, $599 for 32 GB, and $699 for 64 GB. That's much lower than the $700 to $1,000 price tag expected by analysts.
Like the iPhone, the iPad connects to iTunes via USB, allowing users to sync movies, contacts, calendars, TV shows, and apps. The device runs iPhone apps, which means you can transfer apps from your iTunes account. On the downside, it has no flash capability, so you won't be able to watch flash videos on it. And the battery lasts only 10 hours, which could be a deal breaker for heavy users, though a fully-charged iPad can stand-by for 30 days.
In the United States, you will be able to buy 3G models with service provided by AT&T. You'll pay $14.99 for 250 MB of data per month or $29.99 for unlimited data usage. To sweeten the deal, AT&T, which has caught a lot of flack for its subpar iPhone service in New York City, is throwing in free use of WiFi hotspots throughout the U.S. You can activate the service right on the iPad, and there's no contract, so you can cancel any time.
Apple also introduced a new suite of iWork apps includes touch-friendly Keynote software for creating slideshows with animations, a Numbers spreadsheet app that lets you easily move and format data, and a Pages word processing app, available in the app store for $9.99 each.
More sophisticated gaming is another major component of the iPad. One new game, called Nova, debuted today. Desinging apps for the iPad is likely to be a major focus for video game developers in the coming weeks.
In a shot over the bow at Amazon and its Kindle e-Reader, Apple announced a new iBook app that will let you browse through and purchase books and publications, including the New York Times, right on the iPad. The app contains a virtual bookshelf for storing your tomes and an e-books store button that opens an iTunes-like marketplace.
Finally, Apple also unveiled some cool iPad accessories, including a sleek keyboard dock and a stand for typing and watching movies. Unfortunately, anyone eager to get their hands on the iPad will have to wait a while longer; the device isn't slated to ship for another two months.