With all the functionality of notebooks and netbooks plus the latest crop of e-readers, Apple announced its long awaited iPad at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco today. Standard connectivity is via Wi-Fi, with 3G an option. Of course, it includes the computer functionality of smart phones as well, but you wouldn’t use this device to make phone calls with a traditional calling plan.
The iPad weighs 1.5 lb with a 9.7-in. in-plane switching (IPS) display (see the figure). According to Steve Jobs, this is a super high-quality display with a wide viewing angle. The screen has black border around it. And as you might expect with a tablet-style computer, touch is the way to navigate applications.
The iPad has a large capacitive multitouch screen, which means you can use fingers on both hands to do your work, though most users will probably employ the familiar point, swipe and pinch motions. Like a notebook computer, this one has a keyboard, but not a physical one. The virtual keyboard appears on the lower half of the screen when called upon. You can type on it like you would on a standard keyboard. An optional physical keyboard can dock with the iPad.
The heart of the tablet is a custom processor, Apple’s 1-GHz A4. This processor is likely the fruit of Apple’s acquisition of PA Semiconductor in 2008. The computer offers 16 Gbytes of memory standard. It also is available with 32 or 64 Gbytes.
As part of the demo, Apple showed an iPod syncing with the iPad via a USB port. The latest version of Bluetooth is also built into the device.
Apple spent much time at the press conference showing how different applications work on the iPad. One of the most impressive was a copy of the front page of The New York Times on the screen, e-reader style. And by the way, Apple has its own book store now. The iBook store offers titles from publishers such as Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette.
The iPad is designed to run all of the apps that run on the iPhone. Plus, Apple is expecting a whole new generation of applications designed just for this product. The price starts at an amazingly low $499 for the 16-Gbyte model. A souped-up model with a 64-Gbyte memory plus 3G is only $829. An unlimited data plan costs $29.99 per month, which includes free use of AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots. Wi-Fi models will ship in late March, with 3G models shipping in April.