Official: The APPLE iPAD Revealed! APPs, E-Reader, more

Official: The APPLE iPAD Revealed!

Today, at a special event held in California, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to once again make a new product announcement. After recapping some recent achievements by the company, including a record-setting Fiscal Quarter 1 of 15.6 Billion dollars, Jobs formally announced Apple's new tablet computer, the iPad. Starting at just $499, the device will be available in 60 days.

Hyundai Luxury Car to Include Free iPad
Hyundai Luxury Car to Include Free iPad
Image Courtesy of Apple

The device is shaped and designed like an over-sized iPhone. It uses a modified version of the iPhone OS, with similar applications that have been expanded to include new features like drop-down menus, more conviently used on the larger screen. It has an accelerometer built in, again like the iPhone, so the screen can be viewed vertically or horizontally. Features like a larger version of the Photos app and an iTunes store that is a hybrid of the one found on computers and found on iPhones were demonstrated early in Jobs' presentation. A near-full-sized touch keyboard pops up across the screen, and Jobs demonstrated using two hands with all fingers to type, just like on a physical keyboard.

The device is built for portability. Sporting a 9.7" display, it holds a GPS unit inside a .5" thin body that weighs in at 1.5 pounds. Apple custom built a 1Ghz processor for the iPad, which also houses 802.11n wifi, Bluetooth, a mic, speaker, and dock connector. A 16gb, 32gb, or 64gb flash drive is built-in. The battery life is reported at ten hours on a single charge, with a solid month of standby time.

Models are available with 3G data cards built-in. Service will be provided stateside through AT&T for the surprisingly low prices of $14.99 per month for a 250mb data plan or $29.99 per month for unlimited data. The plans include free use of AT&T wifi hotspots and have no contract attached to them. International deals will be finalized by June. 3G models will ship in 90 days, at the end of April, instead of the end of March.

16gb Wifi only models are $499, 32gb at $599, and 64gb at $699. An extra $130 ($629, $729, $829) gets you 3G inside.

In addition to their own apps, the iPad will run all 140,000 apps currently available in the App Store. This includes comics applications like Comixology and PanelFly. Apps can be run in a small "iPhone" sized box, or scaled to full screen. A new SDK (software development kit) including iPad Tools is being released today to allow developers to take full advantage of the new processor and advanced multitouch display.

iPad: Great Gaming Platform?
iPad: Great Gaming Platform?
Image Courtesy of Apple

A game built by Gameloft in just two weeks was shown, featuring full 3D graphics from a first-person perspective. Gaming is a definite focus for the company with this device. EA also showed off Need for Speed Shift with touch and accelerometer based controls.

HD Video from iTunes and YouTube were both shown briefly, with letterbox view fitting to the screen.

Other Apps shown included Brushes, an art display and creation app. Drawing using the multitouch screen with strong precision was displayed.  MLB.com has an app that features a heads-up-display of real time stats overlayed on computer modeling of games. If you can't watch the game, it looks like a pretty close representation.

Apple's own iWork suite of office applications has a new version made just for the iPad. All three applications, Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet), and Keynote (presentation) are fully functional on the device, and tuned to the touch interface. They're $9.99 each, and the iPad can be connected to a projector for presentations of your own. A full-size keyboard dock peripheral was immediately announced, as well.

In publishing, the NY Times showed off their own native iPad app. The app shows the NY Times in full newspaper style. In a Harry Potter-like move, short inline video clips replace some static images. The app can be viewed in newspaper style, or in a format more akin to Google News, with headlines and short blurbs.

Apple also has a new proprietary e-reader app called iBooks. iBooks' interface looks like a book shelf, you pick up the book you want to read off the shelf. Either a two-page horizontal view or a single page vertical view are possible with the e-reader. Publishers on the iBooks store include Penguin, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, and Hachette. Jobs specifically cited both novels and textbooks as being available on the store. It uses the ePub format, making the reader open to thousands of already available ebooks.

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