(Updated 9:45 CST)
After much industry and consumer anticipation, Apple introduced the iPad on Wednesday, a tablet-style device designed for browsing the web, reading and sending email, viewing photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, and reading e-books.
The device, which will be available in late March starting at U.S. $499, is 0.5 inches thick and weighs 1.5 pounds. A 9.7-inch capacitive Multi-Touch LCD display supports 1024x768 VGA video and features an almost full-screen “soft keyboard." The display allows applications to work in both portrait and landscape, automatically animating between views as the user rotates iPad in any direction.
Users can access 12 apps designed especially for the iPad as well as almost all of the 140,000 apps in Apple's App Store, including those available for the iPhone or iPod touch.
“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”
Powered by Apple’s A4 system-on-a-chip, the iPad comes in two versions—one with Wi-Fi and the other with both Wi-Fi and 3G. The company stuck with its iPhone partner, AT&T, which will offer both limited and unlimited monthly data plans.
Among the 12 new apps is iBooks, which allows users to read e-books directly from the unit. The company also introduced a new version of iWork for iPad, a desktop-class productivity suite designed specifically for the Multi-Touch display. The suite allows users to create formatted documents, presentations with animations and transitions, and spreadsheets with charts, functions, and formulas. The unit also connects to the iPad Keyboard Dock with a full-size traditional keyboard.
Market research firm In-Stat believes the iPad is an "impressive device," but cautions individuals who think it will replace existing e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Sony E-Reader Daily Edition. The research firm says Amazon and Sony have firmly established itself in the U.S. market and that there is plenty of room for growth that new features such as e-mail and Web connectivity will drive.
“In the short term...I don’t see the iPad demolishing Kindle sales,” said Stephanie Ethier, In-Stat analyst. “Today’s e-reader customers are looking primarily for a seamless e-book discovery+purchase+download experience. In other words, they’re buying Kindles to read. Sure, the current generation of e-readers can support a number of other functions, like PIM and other computing functions, but fundamentally, customers are purchasing Kindles and Sony E-readers for a revolutionary reading experience.
“Future generations of e-readers are expected to evolve in such a way that the line between e-readers and tablets will blur substantially," Etheir continued. "The immediate impact the iPad has on the Kindle is that the iPad is going to ignite the tablet market. Therefore, the blur between tablets and e-readers starts within the year, and will impact the outlook for future Kindle, and all e-reader, sales.”
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