Apple iPad: Books, music, Web and the kitchen sink

New device bridges the gap between iPhone and laptop computers

The tablet that Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled today took the concept of multitasking to an entirely new level. The iPad, which will start selling in two months for a base price of $499, is an e-book reader, a multimedia player, an iPod, and a gaming device. It also offers e-mail, an office suite and Web browsing.

The iPad looks like a giant iPhone. It’s got a 9.7-inch screen, weighs 1½ pounds, and is a half-inch thick. It uses multi-touch sensors, so users can swoosh and swipe the screen to move data around. It offers an onscreen keyboard that you can size. You can flip it around from portrait view to landscape by turning it sideways.

It provides 10 hours of battery life, enough, Jobs said, so that you could take a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo to watch video the whole way on one charge.

Also, the rumors about the tablet as a bold step into the e-book reader arena turned out to be true. The iPad lets you click on a button that takes you to the iBookstore, where you can browse, buy and download e-books directly to the iPad. Five publishers — Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette — are the initial partners, as well as the New York Times. “This is going to open up the floodgates for the rest of the publishers, starting this afternoon,” Jobs said.

Jobs tipped his hat to Amazon in the presentation, saying that the online retailer had done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle. But Jobs said Apple was going to stand on their shoulders and go a bit further.

Perhaps the best news about the iPad for government users is that the 144,000 apps already available for the iPhone from the App Store work on the iPad too. Except now they are easier to see. So you could -- theoretically -- check out President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight using the White House app on the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen.

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The iPad also offers Apple’s iWork office suite, including a word processor, spreadsheets and presentation software. You can run movies on the iPad, sync it with your iPod, play games on it, update your Facebook and Twitter with a few taps. You can make the font on the New York Times bigger, and the iPad will automatically reset the columns on the page. You can read e-books in color or black and white, and turn the electronic pages with a swoop of the finger.

A special attachment can also roast a rotisserie chicken in 30 minutes. OK, I made that one up. But the 90 minute presentation almost got a bit overwhelming -- there's very little, it seems, that the iPad can't do.

Powered by Apple’s A4 chip, the iPad is available in 16, 32 or 64G flash storage versions. It’s got 802.11n, WiFi and Bluetooth. A 3G version will be available in 90 days, Jobs said. A service plan from AT&T is available for 250M of data for $14.99 month, and an unlimited plan for $29.99.

The iPad will start shipping in 60 days. The 16G version will sell for $499, about half of what some Internet pundits had predicted. A 32G version sells for $599, and the 64G version sells for $699. A 3G model, whatever the capacity, will sell for $130 more.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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