It's the iPad

$499 price and optional keyboard make the tablet a big winner, says analyst

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During the 90-minute unveiling, Jobs and other Apple executives demonstrated the iPad's capabilities to prove their point that the tablet is better than either a laptop or a phone for a host of functions, ranging from browsing the Web and playing games to watching movies and reading e-books.

"But this isn't the Kindle killer than some were expecting," said Gottheil. "It's portable and a useful size, but I think it's too heavy and too thick to be an e-book reader killer."

In many ways, the iPad resembles an overgrown iPhone -- the "iPod Touch on steroids" that some analysts, including Gottheil, had predicted last year -- down to the touch-enabled display and the appearance of only one button, the Home button, on the device.

The iPad weighs approximately 1.5 lb., is about half an inch thick and is based on a 1-GHz Apple-designed processor that Jobs called the Apple A4. "It's powered by our own silicon," said Jobs, "[and] it screams." Although Jobs did not specifically say so, the chip was likely created by P.A. Semi, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based boutique microprocessor design company Apple acquired in 2008.

Multiple models of the iPad will be available, with prices dependent on the amount of flash memory. Apple will sell the tablet in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models for $499, $599 and $699, respectively, with Wi-Fi only; they will cost $629, $729 and $829 with both Wi-Fi and 3G.

Jobs claimed that the iPad's battery would last approximately 10 hours while playing video and would remain in standby mode for up to a month without recharging. "I can take a flight form San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole way," he said.

As many had predicted, including a metrics firm that had detected dozens of unidentified devices running at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus since last October, the iPad runs a variation of the iPhone OS. Apple will release a modified iPhone SDK (software developer kit) later today that has been enhanced to support iPad development, said Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software.

Most existing iPhone applications can run as is on the new iPad, Forstall added, in either an expanded mode or in a small, iPhone-size frame.

Computerworld's Seth Weintraub tries out the new iPad at Apple's launch event today.

The iPad's e-book capabilities, which Jobs compared with those of Amazon's Kindle, come courtesy of a built-in app named iBook. Tablet users can download electronic books in the ePub format from an iTunes-like bookstore that's populated with titles by major publishers, including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Penguin. To flip a page, readers simply tap anywhere on the right (to go forward a page) or on the left (to go back) side of the iPad screen.

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