Apple unveils the iPad

Steve Jobs gets on stage to reveal Apple's much-awaited iPad, which looks a lot like a really big iPhone.

Apple has unveiled its much-awaited tablet device, which will be known as the iPad.

Chief executive Steve Jobs described it as "advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price".

The iPhone-like tablet device was unveiled in San Francisco today, with a starting price of just $499. It will arrive in the US in 60 days for the Wi-Fi-only version, and 90 days for one with 3G.

The international edition should arrive by June or July, Jobs said.

There will be six versions. The Wi-Fi-only edition will cost $499 for the 16GB, $599 for the 32GB and $699 for the 64GB. Add 3G, and prices will jump to $629, $729 and $829, respectively.

In the US, 3G access will be via AT&T's network, which will charge $14.99 for 250MB a month, and $29.99 for unlimited downloads. Those packages will not be on contract, however, so users can drop them whenever they'd like.

There are no details for international data plans as yet, but Jobs did note that the iPad would be unlocked, and could be used with any operator's SIM card.

Hardware

Half an inch thin, the iPad weighs 1.5 pounds. It features an 9.7in IPS capacitative touch screen display. Apple is claiming 10 hours of battery life, with the promise you can "take a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole time." Apple also claimed it had a month of standby time.

It will run an Apple A4 1GHz chip and offer either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage. Connectivity will be in the form of Bluetooth 2.1 or 802.11n Wi-Fi, or 3G - if you've shelled out for that.

Apps

Apps that work on the iPhone will work on the iPad, so you need not buy all new games for the new device. Apple also unveiled an updated SDK so developers can get to work and produce new iPad-friendly creations.

At the event, Apple showed how the New York Times, Facebook and EA Games Need for Speed would work on the iPad. For the former, the pages looked like the standard paper, but images could be zoomed in and videos embedded.

Aside from games and the web, Apple is also pushing the iPad as an e-book reader, taking on Amazon's Kindle. The company unveiled e-book shop iBook, to sell ePub format books to download to the device. The industry-wide format allows users to share their e-books with a limited amount of friends.

It also introduces a new version of iWork, with a reworked Keynote, Pages and Numbers for the touch system. They will be available for $9.99 each.

If the thought of typing away on a touch screen worries you, don't despair. Aside from the touchscreen keyboard, which flips to a full-sized one when the device is held horizontally, Apple has also created a docking system, so you can use a full-sized, mechanical keyboard at your desk.

Click here for our blog of the announcement and read on to find out about Apple's tablet rivals and whether the tablet market is really set to take off.

What do you think of the iPad? Drop us a line at comments@itpro.co.uk to let us know your thoughts on Apple's latest gadget.

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